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American Spring | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Tag Archive | "American Spring"

Jail Solidarity in Chicago


Chicago, IL–Jail solidarity is one of those amazing things that has come out of Occupy but that you don’t hear talked about outside of the movement.  In case you aren’t familiar with the practice, when arrests happen at an Occupy protest, we gather outside the jail and hold vigil until our comrades are released.  This often involves staying overnight, but people bring food and a spirit of solidarity, making the most of the situation.

While working my second job of the day this past Wednesday, I was monitoring Twitter and feeling a bit guilty.  Some of my friends were in Wisconsin, marching against the failed Walker recall. Other friends were marching through downtown Chicago to the Canadian consulate in solidarity with the student protests in Quebec. And there was a memorial to a beloved mental health consumer and advocate who passed away in her sleep happening at both mental health clinic occupations.

I was missing all of the above because I was working, but I felt guilty because I had slept between jobs that afternoon instead of stopping by one of the mental health clinics or doing other Occupy activities.  I know that it’s a good idea to sleep on occasion, but with so much going on it’s easy to feel like I’m not doing enough.  Or at least that I wish I could do more.

I’m a nanny, and I was cuddling with an adorable baby girl (who happens to also be my niece) that evening, checking Twitter between wiping her spit-up.  As I watched in horror, my Twitter feed started to blow up.  First I learned that one friend had been arrested in Milwaukee as others were trampled by police horses.  Within minutes I was seeing tweets from my friends in Chicago describing unprovoked police brutality and many violent arrests.  I saw pictures of police officers using metal batons on protesters and heard that one young female comrade was surrounded by six cops, beating her brutally before they arrested her.  I was in shock; I hadn’t expected a relatively ordinary march to end this way.  My heart sank as I read the names of my friends who were taken away by the CPD, seemingly targeted for being main organizers within Occupy Chicago, but some of the most sincerely peaceful people I have had the honor of meeting.

Until this week, I had not participated in jail solidarity actions because one of my nannying jobs starts very early in the morning.  As I watched the violence unfold, however, I did some quick mental calculations.  I had slept several hours during the day; I could probably stay awake through the night and head directly for my morning job, given enough coffee and adrenaline.  By canceling a couple of daytime appointments, I could even get a nice nap in later.  It was the least I could do for my friends (who were later joined by those violently arrested in NY).  So I went home to get a change of clothes, some snacks, a blanket and pillow, charged my devices, then headed back into the city toward the jail.

As I pulled up across the street, I could hear them still banging on pots and pans, making quite a ruckus through the otherwise still night.  There were about 25 people, with more arriving periodically.  I said my hellos, gave a brief statement on livestream, and found a spot to set up.

A short while later, a group of plainclothes cops came out of the station.  The leader of the pack approached us with a printed copy of the sound ordinance in hand, telling us we had to stop making all that noise.  I didn’t hear the rest of the confrontation because I was distracted by a plainclothes cop who had come around the side, where I was sitting.  The most polite way to describe him is “meathead.”  He was wearing a tshirt that said, I kid you not, NATO SUMMIT 2012 – WE WOKE UP EARLY TO BEAT THE CROWDS.  He spent the next several minutes trying to provoke us and shining his flashlight in our eyes and cameras when we tried to take his picture.  Luckily we did get a couple of photos, even if they aren’t as close or as clear as we would have liked.

After that confrontation, however, they mostly left us alone.  We settled into card games, conversations, food runs, and cuddle piles.  We were able to use the bathroom inside the station, but it meant walking a gauntlet past at least ten pissed off cops for the dubious privilege of using a metal jail toilet.

Photo by Rachel Allshiny

At about 2am, I bedded down.  I never quite got to sleep, but I spent the next few hours lying on the sidewalk, drifting in and out of the conversations around me.  When there was a lull in conversation, the rustling of the rats in the bushes took over.  At about 3:30am the first camera crews showed up, but once I saw another press liaison had it covered I hid from the bright lights under my blanket and tried to tune it all out.  I gave up at 5, accepted a donated cup of coffee, and started getting ready to head to work.  None of the arrestees were released until after I left, so I didn’t get to hug them, but I’m glad I spent the night regardless.

Those early morning hours were very meaningful to me, and I wish I had enough words to express what I felt.  I was aware that I had given up the comfort on my bed to not-really-sleep on concrete in solidarity with my friends in Milwaukee, Chicago, and New York who were doing the same inside jail cells.  I felt the warmth and camaraderie of my friends around me and those at home sending messages throughout the night.  I was overcome with the knowledge that if and when I got arrested for exercising my First Amendment rights, these same people would rally around me.  And I knew that I was part of something special, something that no cop in a stupid tshirt could take away.  We’re a family, and a community, and a force to be reckoned with.

Morning came and I went back to what I call my civilian life, but the experience of jail solidarity will always stay with me.  Unfortunately, it’s an experience I expect to have many opportunities to repeat in the near future.  But these arrests don’t weaken us; they make us stronger, individually and collectively.

I’ll see you all out in the streets.

– Rachel Allshiny –

Editor’s note: This post is one of many recounting events on June 6th, in which cities all over the world marched in solidarity with protests in Quebec. You may read about New York’s march here, an arrestee’s account of the experience here, and multiple points of view of the same march’s first five minutes here. The photo for this post above is by Abel Mebratu.

Posted in #manifencours, StoriesComments (2)

Congratulations for Subversively Preventing Free Speech & the Right to Peacefully Assemble


Editor’s note: This story is part of our coverage of the #noNATO protests in Chicago. The following post is excerpted from a story on Diatribe Media; the complete article may be found here.

Chicago, IL–I was born and raised in Chicago, and lived here twenty-five years. The past four years, I have been away from my city, led by my camera to have and document new life experiences. I traveled throughout the west coast and lived in rural Oregon, which included a couple years of communal living. Even while working in a small café/bookstore in rural Oregon, people would often comment on my accent, and knew I was a Chicagoan.

On hearing Chicago would host the NATO/G8 summits this year, I decided I had work to do back home. I needed to get back in touch with people who were connected to what was happening in preparation for the summits, and I contacted an old friend, Aaron Cynic. We met at Columbia College Chicago, during the 2003 Iraq war protests, so I knew he would be active on the ground in Chicago. As expected, he knew other independent videographers, photographers, writers, and live streamers. When I got into town we met for the May Day protest and made plans to assemble a team of indy journalists to work together documenting the summit protests.

The march of many kettles

After the well-attended “Healthcare Not Warfare” March to Rahm Emanuals house on Saturday, May 19, we regrouped after a quick meal and upload session. Aaron, John and I headed back to the loop for the Anti-Capitalist march, which began at the Haymarket Square, quite a symbolic location. As we exited the train and did equipment check before continuing on, nearby police shot us hard looks. I found it strange, but we had too much to do to pay it much attention at the time. We hit the march, heavily flanked by police on both sides. Soon after we caught up with the march, police kettled the crowd at a dead end street. There was anxiety and confusion between the out-of-towners who were unfamiliar with the city, and with the entire crowd attempting to head in different directions, not knowing where to go next. We found ourselves boxed in, and people became very tense. Thankfully, police lines opened up to the east, and the march continued for some time until reaching the loop.

Boxed in on State Street. Photo by Kate Harnedy

This became, in my mind, “the march of many kettles.” Kettling is a police tactic for controlling large crowds during demonstrations or protests. Large cordons of police form and surround the protest to contain a crowd within a limited area. Protesters are left only one choice of exit, determined by the police, or are completely prevented from leaving. The feeling of being penned in is very disconcerting, and people tend to react angrily to this tactic. This practice is considered controversial for many reasons, including the inclusion of innocent bystanders, and denied access to food, water and services, and the use of the tactic to create disorder and an excuse for excessive police force.

Another kettle appeared again, this time on State Street. Once more, the crowd became tense and started to get angry. Knowing the history and use of kettling as a tactic, the threat that they would close in and arrest everyone became very real. As the crowd tried to push forward, police began to pull demonstrators from the front lines and arrest them. They used their bicycles as weapons, swinging them at protestors. In multiple pieces of video footage, evidence shows officers swinging their clubs mercilessly at demonstrators. Eventually, lines opened towards the south and allowed the march to continue, this time with an even larger police presence.

The march made its way to Michigan and Balbo, between two hotels where NATO summit delegates were staying. Once again, the march was kettled on the corner. Feeling like they might actually be in earshot of delegates, the energy rose as the crowd chanted loudly. This kettle lasted awhile, and we once again wondered if arrests were imminent. After what felt like at least a half hour, the crowd pushed north Michigan Avenue.

Once again, the march was quickly boxed in. Buses and vans with riot police pulled up and they quickly surrounded the crowd. Aaron and I were caught just outside police lines, but John managed to make it inside. The police presence had grown to ridiculous proportions, making us quite nervous. We had heard many accounts of law enforcement targeting journalists for arrest, and both became preserved in our photography after being followed and watched closely by police. After John made his way out, we decided to head back to home base and get our footage to a secure location.

That evening, we continued to receive reports of arrests and fellow journalists being targeted. A car containing five live streamers was pulled over, and they were handcuffed and detained at gunpoint. The live streamers were able to post video footage of this event, where TWELVE police vehicles surrounded their car. Meanwhile, a police van drove through a crowd of activists attempting to defend fellow demonstrators. The van struck multiple people, sending one to the hospital.

“The CPD, they ain’t messing around. And this is Rahm’s city now. Watch your back.”

The official NATO summit began the next day, for which the largest permitted march was scheduled. Our team assembled at the Petrillo band shell in Grant Park, where many activists spoke out against NATO policies and the activities of Chicago police during the week. As the groups gathered for the march, the police closed in and flanked both sides of the street. We stayed at the front of the march, in what may well have been considered a media kettle. As the march began, we stayed at the front, along with at least 200 other journalists.

We joked that we should just document each other, since we felt practically cut off from the actual march. The march was lead by a double-decker media bus and two police trucks. There were bicycle and police on foot following along on both sides, and there was a line of police behind us leading the march. Frustrated by the lack of action, I contemplated leaving to go back into the march. But with the police lines as thick as they were, I was not confident I could get back in.

The route was long, and the weather pushed a sunny 95 degrees. The mainstream media falsely reported that protestors had access to water and cooling buses, but those were only for police. When we were asked for water, we were denied. I saw many journalists drop out simply because they did not have water.

The crowd at Michigan and Cermak. Photo by Kate Harnedy

The march ended with a rally at Cermak and Michigan, for that was as close to McCormick Place as demonstrators were allowed. Emotions were high when veterans spoke about their regrets participating in unjust wars and threw their medals towards McCormick Place (because the officals refused to come out to receive them I person.) Women from Afghans for Peace also spoke of the trauma caused in their country. It was a moving and peaceful event. Although the 10,000+ people were hot and crammed together, they cheered in support and the mood was celebratory. Sitting up on a friend’s shoulders, I was able to finally see the extent of the crowd, which was incredible. I had walked these streets every day when I went to school in this neighborhood, and seeing them full of people expressing their rights filled my heart. I felt proud to be a part of this event and movement, and proud it was taking place in my home city. Sadly, that feeling of joy was short lived.

The veteran who was acting as emcee of the event told the crowd they would be marching out to the west, that the rally was over and people should leave to the west. Some people started to move out to the west on Cermak, which was flanked by metal fencing. The majority of the crowd stayed, continuing in their excitement and celebratory atmosphere. We heard no order to disperse, but suddenly, the CPD presence increased dramatically. Before we knew what was happening, riot police flanked the crowd.

They came in aggressively, yelling “Move!” and pushing those of us on the outskirts west. Yet the majority of people were inside the police line. This incited tension very quickly. Many people started chanting, “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” and others linked arms and sat in the street. It all happened very quickly, and what was a peaceful rally quickly had turned very negative. The LRAD device started being used for communication, telling people to disperse to the west. I followed suit when I saw people putting in their earplugs, in fear of being deafened by LRAD if they decided to use it to disperse the crowd. I continued shooting what was happening as the tension built. I could hear a conflict deeper within the crowd, but I could not see nor get beyond the police line. It ends up this was the incident where protestors pushed forward, followed by harsh retaliation from the CPD. I started hearing cries for medics at this point.

After about ten minutes, things had not escalated any further. I had been out of water for over and hour, and was refused service by the only open business in the area (although they were happily serving police.) After seeing stars and feeling faint, I knew I had no choice but to leave. I regrettably exited the police line, knowing I would not be allowed back in.

Livestreamer Rebelutionary_Z, shortly before his arrest. Photo by Kate Harnedy

I saw video footage days later of what happened after I left. Police pushed forward and overtook the people sitting in the streets. They also broke rank and did a target arrest of livestreamer Rebelutionary_Z. I also got to see the footage of the commotion and violence inside the crowd that I could not see while I was there. I was appalled at the violence I saw in these videos. There is no justification for fully armed police officers to be indiscriminately swinging their clubs into a crowd of unarmed people, many of whom were trapped. My heart also went out to my fellow journalists who were injured. I was saddened to see pictures of a Getty photographer who had taken a billy club to the head, and to hear of others who were targeted, arrested, and had gear destroyed.

As I fell out and left the barricaded area, I was in shock at the police presence I saw for nearly a mile. CPD in full riot gear were lined up outside. As I continued on, I also saw battalions of Illinois State Police, with full riot gear and billy clubs that were twice as long. When I saw the state riot police with automatic weapons, the fruit punch I had just gotten from White Castle was the only thing that kept me from passing out.

It was a shock to see my city in this militarized state. I was aware that this was a National Security Event, and had expected a hefty police presence. But I could see no justification for a literal army going up against a group of mostly peaceful protestors. What I saw on Sunday I will never forget.

As I regrouped with my team in Chinatown, I went to freshen up in the restroom. A middle aged black woman came out of the stall and looked at me with concern. “You from around here?” I told her I grew up in Chicago, and she seemed a bit releived. She still gave me a warning. “Be careful out there, girl. The CPD, they ain’t messing around. And this is Rahm’s city now. Watch your back.”

After some much needed sustenance and a recharge, we hit the streets again. Like expected, we were not allowed to get anywhere near Cermak and Michigan. We were watched very closely, and with suspicion, by the police that lined the streets. We started getting word of people gathering in another location and headed north. The looks we got from people we passed on the streets were unforgettable. Although we were all carrying cameras, we were looked at with fear and uncertaincy. Perhaps it was the bandanas around our necks, which were good for preventing sunburn, and a weak protection against tear gas. I was amazed the fear we generated in people while the police-military was out in full force, and the real criminals were having their meeting at McCormick Place.

Presenting a press pass. Photo by Kate Harnedy

We one again ran right into a small impromptu march heading north on Michigan Avenue. Soon more small groups joined this group, and before long a large group took to the streets and circled back into the loop, where they met with the CPD again. The atmosphere was emotional, chaotic, and disobedient, but the march remained peaceful. There were attempts by police to reroute or stop the crowd, which lead to some small clashes. It was one of these moments where I got this picture of journalist Laurie Penny being shoved by police, even though she is holding her press pass.

The march eventually ended in a sit in at the Art Institute, where earlier in the evening Michelle Obama hosted to wives of the NATO delegates. A sit-in happened, and the mood was surprisingly celebratory. Once again, we called in a night and left to upload our material. On the way to the train, we passed a federal building surrounded by state police in riot gear holding large guns. When one of us asked what kind of weapons they were, they refused to tell us.

The following day the protests were calmer, but the police presence was not. After an afternoon of peaceful actions and marches, there was a rally at “The Horse” where Occupy Chicago holds G.A. Although nothing happened to incite any response, CPD once again closed in around the group. Our nerves were on edge, hearing about more “snatch and grab” arrests and the presence of police infiltrators. When a march broke out into the streets, we got the information to be careful, because the march was led by police informants. When I got back and looked at my pictures in detail, I found this picture of “anarchists” holding a sign, and was surprised by their footware. This woud be the first time I saw any protestor wearing dress shoes. They are hardly the best for days of marching through the streets.

Opposite Narratives, Opposite Worlds

One of the most frustrating things was to get home after 16+ hours in the streets (and 3-4 more hours of uploading) and turn on the news. We often wondered what they were reporting on, because it sure was not the truth we had just experienced. The biggest shock was Sunday evening, when reports were grossly underestimating the number of people at the march. Although the number was estimated around 10,000, the mainstream media gave numbers from 3,500 to as low as 1,200. It was infuriating. We were literally on the edges of our seats, cursing the television and the lies it was spreading. It is such a strange and sickening feeling to have lived something and then hear an entirely different reality from the media.

Considering the fear-mongering and oppression that happened leading up to and during the protests, I suppose I should not have been surprised by the lies I heard spread by the mainstream media in the days following the protests. And as the media says, so does the general public. I found myself having to correct people I knew who were spreading that misinformation they picked up from the news.

The misrepresentation in the media I have spoke of proved to me how history will inevitably write this truth out of the textbooks, as perhaps it always has. But I will continue to speak my truth and show my images so that people might understand what really happened this weekend. The people of Chicago and the entire country need to be aware of this militarization of the city, the oppression, and the lies. Chicago will always be my home, the place where I was born and big part of who I am. However this is not the city I grew up in. So much has changed. Political and corporate interests combined are destroying its character. Rahm Emanuel is doing whatever he can to break the unions. The cameras everywhere have Chicago as the second city again, this time in regards to surveillance. But the days following the summits gave me hope, for after the buses of out-of-towners left, many Chicagoans continue to meet, Occupy, and express their dissent. They continue to fight for those still in jail and the human rights violations that took place. It is time for the city of big shoulders to rise up and say no in the face of this destruction and oppression.

Protesters march in Solidarity with activists still in jail from the NATO summit protests. Photo by Aaron Cynic via Chicagoist

– Kate Harnedy –
Kate Harnedy is an independent photographer focusing on community, alternative culture, protest and social chance. Being rebellious with a strong opinion, she also enjoys writing and other forms of creative expression. She grew up in Chicago but has spent four years on the west coast living communally, and continues to live on the road to documenting live in American subcultures. You can find her work at Katehphoto.com.

Posted in #noNATO, StoriesComments (0)

Show Me What a Clown State Looks Like!


Editor’s note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO.

Chicago, IL–This account is not going to be the super detailed story of the battle between protesters and police.  For one, I hardly saw any of the stories that people mentioned other than what I could find on YouTube, so it wouldn’t make sense to write a personal account of something I didn’t even witness.  And two, I think my insights would paint a bit more interesting picture than the tired story of protesters being bloodied by batons.  So instead I’ll give a little insight to the mysterious and silly clown bloc which I participated in for the first time today.

Surely everyone was aware of the massive protest against NATO that took place today in Chicago.  It was hard to gauge the approximate numbers in the march but it surely surpassed 10,000.  One thing that was for sure is that we will have to learn to adapt this coming summer.

In the past we were struggling to brave the cold and brutal winter, and were desperately looking forward to warmer temperature and greener pastures.  If the temperatures pushing 90 weren’t wearing people out, the infamous Chicago humidity was.  The clown bloc, which departed from Jackson and Lasalle, traveled a short half mile to rallying point in Grant Park, but upon our arrival it looked as if many of us had run a 10k (to be fair, we did do a lot of clowning around, so we exerted a lot of energy.)

One thing to keep in mind about the clown bloc is that it is a joke, and at the same time it is NOT a joke.  What the clowns offer is safety and security to their fellow protesters in a fun and flamboyant way, which draws attention to the absurdity of the subject of which we are protesting.  Many of the tactics we use are meant to help deescalate situations, entertain the protesters and soften (or annoy) the police, but more importantly we are out there to have fun.

I only attended a short training a few days before but in essence what the clown bloc does isn’t that different than what many direct action affinity groups do.  You must have a variety of hand signals that allow for group as well as participant safety.  You must be aware of the situation at all times, but  when you have face paint and you are mimicking a cop you can easily get distracted.

We were taught to form a wall, how to “melt”, and charge in slow motion, as well as how to use hugs to secure those in compromising situations.  But we often found ourselves just making fools of ourselves, cracking jokes while interacting with those around us and trying to get the police to smile.  (By the way, a lot of the CPD seemed to be keeping their batons up their butt, because virtually none of them had a sense of humor, or facial expressions for that matter)

It wasn’t until later in the march when the rally was over and tensions started to rise that I started to see the value in the tactics that we were taught.  At that point, I switched off clown mode and was keeping a safe but observant distance.  Vermin Supreme (yes, that Vermin Supreme) showed better than any of us clowns that day the effectiveness of “clowning.”  His calm, relaxing voice not only kept things from getting out of hand several times, but took people’s attention away from the people with shields and batons and refocused it on one another.

He may not be as outlandish as we were visually but his communication skills were outstanding.  He gave a training on his methods to Occupy Chicago back in April and then we half-heartedly listened to his advice, but the NATO protest helped make it clear that our protests are more than just antagonizing and peacefully provoking the police so that we may “shed light” on the oppression and violence inherent in the system, but more that we have a message, and we have a story to tell: to tell the whole wide world that this is the people’s territory.

You have plundered our livelihoods, you’ve stolen our retirement, you’ve destroyed our health, and you’ve corrupted our system.  We are merely taking it back.  This is non-negotiable.  We the people are re-declaring our independence and our freedom.  And if it takes a pie in the face or acting like you’ve ran into an invisible wall, then so be it.

Often we have discussed diversity of tactics and what it means to be “non-violent,” but while the debate rages on about those who pursue more traditional methods, opposed to those in all black clothing, don’t forget that those with red noses also have something to offer, and in solidarity we can all fight this fight together.

– David –

Posted in #noNATO, StoriesComments (1)

An Anarchist’s Odyssey to Chicago: Part 1


Editors note: This is a three part series. Check out part two. part three and see all our stories from the #noNATO actions here.

Brooklyn, New York

Lucas texted me on May 2nd asking if I was going to the NATO Protests in Chicago.  I figured that getting on the road and out of the city for a while would help me clear my head, regardless of the fact that I was to be caravanning with an anarchic hoard of “openly hostile peace freaks,” as H.S. Thompson might’ve described us: resolved on exposing to the masses the realities of war and its consequences for our society’s economic well-being, and probably the latest advances and trends in state-sanctioned police sadism in the process.  It was two birds with one stone with a vacation to Chicago included, so I told Lucas I was down for a road trip into the dark heart of homegrown American Oppression the very next day.

 

Chicago, IL

Friday May 18th 2012

The ride itself on Thursday was uneventful and prolonged due to the lack of internet as well as the frequent stops we took.  I called Rachel, a librarian from the Occupy Chicago Library.  I got in touch with her through my friends from Occupied Stories.  She told me that several live streamers had been preemptively arrested and given various charges of terrorism for having been discovered with equipment for brewing beer, that there were drones in the air, snipers on the buildings, but also that Rohm Emmanuel didn’t want any déjà vu of the Democrat convention of ‘68 since he wants to become president, which was the whole reason why he wanted NATO as well as the rescheduled G8 in Chicago in the first place.  Unsettling as all of this was, it was all still far more expected than Rachel’s news that the Sears Tower had been renamed to Willis Tower since my last visit to Chicago.

We rallied with dozens of other protestors at the intersection of Jackson and La Salle.  I was in a bathroom at a nearby McDonald’s when the march left.  I saw a woman in plain clothes who had been mingling with us walk over to a group of plainclothes police wearing guns and badges, and saw her take off a worn, long sleeve top revealing a badge chained around her neck.  She told the others that we were headed for the rally at Daley Plaza as if they weren’t already aware of where we were going.  I caught up to Lucas at the front of the march, launched off two confetti poppers and started to play a rhythm on my tambourine while we chanted.  I saw a masked protestor dressed in black bloc attire pop off one of my party poppers after I had returned to the march, after throwing out the ones I had just used into a public trash can.  I told him he didn’t ask before he took it.  He lied and told me my friends had said it was OK for him to do so as he handed the tube back to me, as if it was my job to throw it away for him as I walked away from him to catch up to my friends, who almost always can be found at the head of the march.

The Nurse’s Union Rally was pleasant.  We aimlessly mingled with lots of friends from New York who stuck out from all of the nurses dressed in identical red t-shirts with red-feathered, green Robin Hood caps in support of the Robin Hood Tax they were lobbying to place on all Wall Street transactions to pay for things such as healthcare.  I tweeted a few photos to friends back in NYC.  The rally was of course surrounded by Chicago Police, and even well attended by undercover members of their fraternity.  I became curious and started looking at badges when a high ranking officer of some sort in a white shirt asked me what the tubes sticking out of the top of my backpack were.  I probably could’ve avoided talking to him altogether had he not caught me checking out his badge, but I assured him that they were party poppers and not fireworks, just like it said they were on the tube’s red and yellow wrapping paper.  He told me that they weren’t safe, since all of the people at the rally might become startled by them.  He told me I had to get rid of them.  I held out the wrapper of a granola bar that had been given to me, said I had been looking for a trash can but couldn’t find one, probably because the police removed all of them.  He told me that he’d dispose of the party poppers for me, but I told him I’d be perfectly happy to do so myself or just return them to my room.  I walked out of the vicinity of the rally, threw away the granola bar wrapper once I found a trash can, took the party poppers out of my backpack and carried them back into the rally well below eye level of the police, in the blue opaque plastic bags I had bought them in, from the dollar store two blocks from my apartment in Brooklyn.

I grabbed some salad and beans provided from the kitchen when Tom Morello, The Night Watchman who emerged from the ashes of Rage Against the Machine, took the stage to support the union rally just as I saw him do at the May Day Rally in Union Square in NYC.  He was every bit as inspiring as he had been when he’d played at Liberty Plaza/Zuccotti Park the fall of the past year.  I fired off the last of the two party poppers I had brought with me after he had told everyone in the crowd, including the undercover police, to jump the fuck up as he played the censored verses of Woody Guthrie’s original version of “This Land Is Your Land.”  No one near me made a move to arrest me, and one of the nurses suggested that I should just leave the empty tubes on the ground and walk off.  I took her advice.  I found Mikey a moment later. He told me he figured I launched the confetti as we caught up with Lucas and Emillio at the front of the un-permitted march of occupiers, while all of the Union Nurses in red left the permitted rally at Daley plaza on buses.

The march was energetic.  There were so many of us that we had no trouble occupying the streets anywhere we went.  We headed east toward Lake Michigan at some point. I was thrilled at the prospect of marching toward the waters I had grown up in in my hometown of Milwaukee, WI, and possibly shutting down the city of Chicago by occupying a major intersection on Lake Shore Drive in the process of doing so, but alas the Chicago PD had set up a blockade and we marched north through a park and began a loop through the city ultimately back towards Jackson and La Salle.

A former soldier in the Army turned bare-chested protestor had climbed up some ledges on the side of a wall to tear down a banner for the NATO summit, which declared the organization’s goals of world peace.  He tore half the banner apart and was greeted by a swarm of Chicago Police who tried to arrest him after he bolted from the ledge he had been standing upon.  But he kept moving. The police nearly grabbed him, but he was dragged away and un-arrested from the Chicago PD by fellow protestors.  I hadn’t even realized I had been walking alongside him after several dozen of us left a police kettle on a bridge near the spot where he had torn the banner down, since someone had given him a new shirt and cap to wear.  He had cut open his thumb a bit but was otherwise free and clear.  I told him that I saw another officer fall and nearly whack their head on a bridge railing while pulling out a taser.  A friend who had helped un-arrest the guy had a good picture of him tearing down the NATO banner that didn’t reveal his face, which he tweeted out.

We marched back to Jackson and La Salle without much more incident.  A few occupiers mike checked and soap boxed for a while before most of the march moved down toward the Indian and Horse statues near Congress and Michigan.  I met up with Lou, a drummer I march with at OWS from Long Island.  I was bummed he didn’t bring his drum since most of the Chicago Occupiers had trouble keeping a good beat, in my opinion.  Rachel had told me that most of their instruments had unfortunately been confiscated almost as soon as Occupy Chicago had begun.  Lou and I decided to walk past Buckingham Fountain, best known by non-Chicagoans from the TV show Married With Children.  We hung out in front of the lake for a bit. We went off in search of good Chicago pizza after Matt, a live streamer from NYC, joined up with us.  I asked some police who were sitting around Grant Park where they thought we could get the best deep dish pie in the area, and they politely but grudgingly told us we should check out Lou Malnati’s off of State Street, as men with proper Midwestern values ought to.  I asked if we could get a discount if we told the host that they had sent us.  Rest assured everyone was momentarily amused.

 

Saturday May 19th 2012

I decided to go on a solo mission to pay my respects the memorial of the Haymarket Anarchists, which had intentionally been built well outside the city limits of Chicago out of spite not for any of their actions, all of which had been perfectly legitimate, but in an attempt to murder the ideas they embodied with their lives.  I had wanted to see their memorial for some time and figured that this was the best day, given that the NATO summit didn’t officially begin until the next day.

I stopped and bought water and a decent smelling Dominican cigar from a convenience store after I got off the hour and fifteen minute train ride, and just before I began the 1.6 mile walk further outside of Chicago to find the graveyard.  The main cemetery gates were open and I started combing the cemetery, looking for Emma Goldman’s grave in the 80 plus degree sunshine before I found a path to the Haymarket Memorial via a GPS coordinate on my iPhone.  I saw a sign next to a chained entrance that listed visiting hours over at 3:30pm and informed me that trespassers would be prosecuted.  I’m not the sort of anarchist that goes out of his way to find trouble with the law, and I slipped out of that particular cemetery, given that it was going on 5pm, to find the memorial I was searching for at another nearby cemetery.

I recognized the memorial from a distance as soon as I saw it through the fence at the side of Forrest Home Cemetery facing Des Plaines Avenue.  I saw another sign which informed me that visiting hours had already passed.  It never occurred to me to check visiting hours before I left.  My resolve to visit the monument was also fading from walking miles in the hot sun to find the graves.  But the monument was so close, not close enough to touch or take a clear picture, but close enough for me to feel something deep within me being stirred the same way it had been stirred over a decade before, when I had first read the story of these anarchists from history books that those like me never receive credit for reading in school until we get into higher education.  I needed to visit this place in order to know with material certainty that history as I understood it was in fact real before continuing on to wherever the anarchist’s path may take me.  I did not know if or when I’d ever be able to return to this place.  My conscious cringed at the thought of having to return all the way back to Chicago to tell my anarchist friends that I didn’t visit a mass grave of anarchists because I was afraid to break a comparatively minor rule and jump a fence.

The cemetery was completely visible from two main roads and also by two side residential roads due to some predictably strange yet pleasant effect of Midwestern urban planning.  I didn’t see cameras on any of the nearby buildings, but there was tons of traffic around the cemetery and at least two hours left in the day before dark. Yet my resolve had been set and I started pacing up and down Des Plaines Avenue for awhile  before deciding that the main gate was the best spot, since it dipped in from the road only a bit on a short driveway, which would still provide some cover.  I waited with my back to the gate, which I didn’t think would’ve taken me long to clear even without the parkour techniques I had been practicing over the past two months.  I was so intent on watching the roads for the right time to leap over the gate that I didn’t notice the red Toyota of a groundskeeper pull up to the other side of the gate until it was right there.

I introduced myself to the grounds keeper and he told me that he’d give me ten minuets to go see the memorial after I’d explained to him that I had come a long way from New York and waited a long time to visit the spot.  It was somewhat emotional for me to approach this rare monument to anarchy.  It’s a larger than life sculpture of a defiant woman clad in black, majestically defending a fallen male worker on top of a pedestal in front of a large square column adorned with a pyramid.  It’s more than fair to say that the monument would catch the eye and tempt the curiosity of any individual of any age or culture who happened to pass by that spot at Forrest Home cemetery to learn the story of those who rested beneath these timeless stones.  I took photos with my iPhone, cleared my mind as best I could in order to say a few words to mark the occasion, and I left a small offering off tobacco near the monument from the cigar I had brought with me in the tradition of my family’s people.  I made sure I had returned within ten minutes, which wasn’t difficult as the monument wasn’t far from the main entrance.  I thanked the groundskeeper and puffed on my cigar as I made my way back to the train back to Chicago.

I didn’t want to go back to the protests that evening.  I was looking forward to hanging out with John and Nicole that evening, but they had to temporarily leave the streets for the evening due to some heat exhaustion.  I wanted to go to a beach in order to pay my respects to the “Gods” of Lake Michigan who have made me feel welcome in their waters ever since childhood.  I decided to return to the protests, however, once I learned that there was a march breaking through a kettle only two blocks away from the bus station I was waiting at on State Street.

It turned out to be a good march, aside from Jack getting knocked unconscious by a Chicago Police Van driving through the protest.  I caught up with Thorin, who had been helping out the kitchen at the convergence center in between his live streaming, and also Tim, who had moved out of his mom’s house since he and the other streamers were worried about being raided.  His fears were not unfounded, because we learned on Twitter later that night that he had been detained, and cuffed at gunpoint while he Jeff and Luke had been raided late in the night.  I was a bit worried for him at first, but I quickly realized that the incident would only increase the number of people who pay attention to him. I did in fact tweet the following morning that he had reached nearly 10 thousand accounts within 6 minutes of that morning alone, according to tweatreach.com.

– Harrison Schultz –

Editors note: This is a three part series. Check out part two. part three and see all our stories from the #noNATO actions here.

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Summer Disobedience School Week Two: Dealing with the NYPD


New York, NY–Earlier in the week I had forgotten about the second day of Summer Disobedience School, and had planned on visiting family in New Jersey, from which I would return on Saturday night. But I was reminded that SDS was happening because a few of my friends were in on the planning for one of the actions—an SDS staple is that each week, your average activist with little experience facilitating actions is given the chance to bring his or her ideas to fruition—and it seemed too good to pass up, so I cut my New Jersey visit short and left for the city 40 hours after my New Jersey arrival there.

My train arrived at Penn Station right at noon, the official starting time for disobedience school, and I rushed to Bryant Park not knowing how much time was left before things really kicked off. I easily found the familiar group of occupiers, many of whom were present last week, along with many new faces—but first I had to make a pit stop at the bathroom. When I returned, the group had already begun a sort of salute; it sounded similar to the flag salute recited in unison during the opening minutes of elementary school, and it finished just as I’d found my place in the group.

As with last week, this session opened with a warm up vocabulary exercise; we “hup-hup-hupped” towards a central point, hopping like cartoon soldiers—a heckler from outside of the group said that our admittedly ridiculous, though very fun, method of assembling made us look like fools, which we found more funny than offensive—and we practiced melting and forming lines by linking arms.

One great exercise that hadn’t happened last week was practicing being aware of your body in your surrounding environment, and being aware of those swarming around you—an extremely important but easy-to-forget tactic within big marches. Standing in a large circle, we were told to find the point directly across from us and to run to it as fast as we could. You can imagine what happened our first time trying: a lot of confusion in the center, people bumping into one another in joyous confusion. The second time around, we were told to imagine ourselves each as a geometric shape, becoming aware of the shapes of our bodies in relation to those around us.

On a final note before today’s actions were to be revealed, a National Lawyers Guild member spoke out on some legal advice if you are approached by a police officer at a protest: ask if you are being detained, and if not, walk away; stay silent and do not speak otherwise; state multiple times that you do not consent to a search, if one is being performed on you. Little did we know at the outset of the day, but this advice would become important at the afternoon’s climax.

The day’s three actions were announced shortly after. One action was to sing popular Broadway hits outside of a Broadway theater, the lyrics changed to reflect the plight of student debt and raised tuition in light of Quebec’s protests and similar tuition hikes in New York’s own CUNY/SUNY systems, as well as schools everywhere. Another action would utilize a smartphone app to create flashmobs and stage images/live statuary at secret and unexpected spaces close to Bryant Park. The last action was to try out a new de-escalation tactic: stage a march around the park towards the Bank of America tower, which was to be picketed in the hopes of amassing a police presence; the march would then continue to the NYPD station at Times Square, where a statement would be mic checked to the police explaining that we understand their place in the 99% as well, after which flowers would be given to the officers.

Each action seemed very interesting or wildly fun; this week it would be hard to choose. I picked the last action, partly due to my friends’ involvement in the planning but also because I was very curious to see what the police response would be to our appeal to them. Our group was fairly small, initially somewhere between 10-15 people, but we were able to enlist the drummers into our group to add some raw energy. After practicing our march formation and picket, we marched out of the park’s south entrance and made our way east on 41st street.

It was a delightful surprise to see how much attention our small mini-march drew: people in the park, along the street and in front of the library paused to take pictures and video of our ruckus; we took advantage of the spotlight and were careful to snake around the park very slowly. The atmosphere was upbeat as bystanders raised their fists in solidarity, simply waved, or smiled and laughed with us as we made our way up 5th Avenue and west on 42nd Street. But despite attention from tourists and midtown’s lunching business class, police presence remained minimal; from what I could see, only one officer was following beside us until our first destination.

Reaching Bank of America at 6th Avenue, we began our picket. This also caused quite a stir from passersby—in fact, there were many more people watching us now than my last picket there on May Day. Thankfully, there was also a new handful of officers observing the action. After a few minutes of picketing, chanting “Bank of America, bad for America!” and singing, “Oh when the banks come crashing down,” we continued on our way to Times Square.

When we reached the police station, we broke out into an impromptu dance party, chanting “Dance for democracy!” while clapping and jamming to the beat of the drums. This, too, caught the attention of onlookers, and one couple even joined the dance briefly in the hubbub. After a few minutes of this, we amassed in front of the station before a small audience of NYPD officers and a large group of tourists watching us from across the street. We mic checked the following statement in support of the NYPD:

Mic check! Hello, NYPD patrol officers. During the turbulence of the past 8 months, many of us, and many of you, have experienced an entirely new relationship between peaceful citizens and street cops, which at points has been ugly. But we don’t need any more tune ups.

We recognize that in our struggle against the 1%, we have come into conflict with others of the 99% who are directed to shut us down by the very forces we oppose.

More and more rank and file police, who have chosen to put their lives on the line to protect us, to assist us when disaster strikes, to look for our lost children, are told to do more with less, and to work within the paradox of a quota system that places arrests for violations over pursuing real criminals; that angers over stop and frisk rather than serving the community; that criminalizes peaceful political dissent instead of fighting crime; that puts stats over duty.

All while the brass assumes that with your respect for the system and duty to your fellow officers, you would not speak out. But we hear you.

We know your pension fund is bankrupt because bankers gambled with your money, because your pension fund managers lied to you, because politicians refuse to raise taxes on rich corporations, because they need those corporations.

The banks have sold you out. The pension managers have sold you out. The politicians have sold you out.

The people you keep arresting are literally the only ones trying to change any of this.

You have the right to refuse an unlawful order. You have the right to refuse to arrest peaceful protestors. You have the right to stand up for yourself and your future, just like we’re doing.

You are us. We are all each other. Stand up for us as we are standing up for you.

After we finished, those of us with flowers dropped them in a line in the street where the officers stood. While they did not respond to the flowers, it was clear during the statement that they had been listening to the point it was we were trying to make, which seemed a good enough result given our small group and meager police presence. At least we gave these officers something to think about while watching over whatever next action they would be assigned to; it’s my personal philosophy that if one mind is changed, the overall action is a success. We then went civilian, and my friends and I went for a quick bite of lunch before setting off for the red steps in Times Square, where all of today’s Summer Disobedience School participants were to meet in a half hour.

When we reached the steps, a group of occupiers stood in pose in the plaza, their image being projected live on a large screen high up and across the street. This camera was meant for some sort of touristy kind of attraction whose point alludes me, but today’s flashmob action had commandeered it for their own purposes, spelling out “LOVE” with their arms for all of the square to see. Just when my friends and I took to the steps, the occupiers began the chant of “Come on up!” to attract anyone around to join our ranks. Just like last week, we mic checked the “people’s alarm,” describing our point of view that the American dream was becoming more and more a romantic nationalist fiction, and that it was time we awoke from our slumber with a call to action. We then made our march from the steps back to Bryant Park.

Our return to the park heralded arguably the best moment of the entire day, a new tiny victory. We arrived both pumped from our separate actions earlier in the afternoon and also from the unity shared in our collective march, but the atmosphere quickly shifted when we began to notice that a black man had been singled out from us by a few police officers, who were now checking his ID. Many of us stood close by on the steps at the park’s northwest entrance to observe and to try and find out what this was all about.

A girl made a mic check, in which she said something to the effect that this very same man had been standing right next to her a few minutes ago and, as far as she knew, he hadn’t done anything remotely illegal or suspicious. Was he being detained, she asked? (The police did not answer.) Why the police attention in the first place? She suggested that everyone who had been live streaming or recording video—there were a lot of those—come forth with their footage to get to the bottom of what was going on. The live streamers jumped up and approached the police to demonstrate that this man had done nothing wrong; by now nearly the whole march was surrounding the police, chanting things like “Stop, stop & frisk!” and “Let him go!” Lo and behold, the police walked away from the situation as we chanted “Racist, sexist, anti-gay; NYPD go away!” So after each of our small actions and outreach, here was a small, but very tangible, achievement of the day, which gave a huge boost to our celebratory atmosphere just before debriefing—and hopefully showed onlookers outside of occupy that all our running around and yelling did in fact bring results.

At the debrief, people from each action group gave the pros and cons to their day. From the group I had participated in, we realized how much energy the drums give to marchers and how we should make an attempt to have a drummer at every action we do. We also entertained the possibility of maybe doing a similar de-escalation action again, with a larger group of people or perhaps at an action already happening with a large police presence.

And where had the police been all afternoon, if not at the one action designed to attract as many NYPD officers as possible? Oddly enough, they were with the Broadway show tunes group—since the group had infiltrated a street fair happening close by on 6th Avenue, much of the police had followed to try and keep the hijinks in order. You win some, you lose some.

The day concluded with a planning meeting for the next week, as well as Free University’s teach-ins, though after a bleary-eyed, early morning and my rushed journey into the city from New Jersey, I decided to call it a day early and set off for my apartment in Brooklyn for a nap. As with last week, another successful and rewarding day of Summer Disobedience School!

– Joe Sutton –

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2nd Day of the Siege of the Central City Association


Los Angeles, CA–We wrapped on what was a productive and spirited second day, occupiers! Throughout the day yesterday, activists were in direct action affinity group discussions, action meetings, and planning dialogues. The Los Angeles General Assembly consented upon an action in support of Bradley Manning for June 6th. After a laborious discussion surrounding the concept of an “Extraordinary General Assembly,” the People came to consensus! We had a lot of solidarity claps and sincere people recognized that, “we’re not going slow, we’re going far”… and it paid off. Get involved and take ownership of this process of improvement. All power to the People!

Following the general assembly, about seventy occupiers took to the streets to march to the ongoing occupation of the Central City Association. We had a lot more people than the previous night, and the energy felt euphoric and tactile, much like the tribes around City Hall in last year. Young and old helping set up tents, an artist painting on canvas, and cardboard codes of conduct taped to trees. Pots, pans, guitars, boom boxes, and voices… all doing their part in clanging, strumming, thumping, and singing about solidarity and the revolution. Check out the photos here by Erik Herrera.

Some delicious vegan food showed up around 10:15 p.m. or so (Thank you, M.T.!) and we sat down with some hot tea and got to chalk-uppying the sidewalk. This was a new element, and along with the boost in occupiers, tents, and activities, made it feel like Solidarity Park last fall.

The camp groggily started to stir at about 5:45 a.m., when the 6 a.m. warning calls were being issued. (The rule throughout the city is tents can stay up from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.) The LAPD had waited until about 7 a.m. on Day One to mobilize, but this morning they were only two minutes late. The same cops as yesterday strutted up and repeated their dance for the 1%. We didn’t.

The discipline and militancy of the first day was echoed for Day Two. The tents were immediately in the air. No one talked to the pigs. Yet still, one man was arrested for chalking on the sidewalk. Chalk is not graffiti… it has been deemed Constitutionally-protected free speech. He was chalking the names of Black Panthers who were killed by the police. They waited until he was finished, approached him and told him he was under arrest. No warning was given even though others had been chalking.

We spent the rest of the morning protesting the CCA on the corners and handing out flyers to the community. I noticed a markedly more positive response to outreach efforts. Some said they had seen us yesterday and were wondering what we were about. Others couldn’t help but grin as they said, “Good morning AGAIN!” to the adamant stalwarts lining the sidewalk. In this suffocating urban rat race, music and laughter and courtesy and compassion are becoming contagious as we occupiers remain vigilant.

– Ryan Rice –

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Summer Disobedience School Now in Session


New York, NY–After the high drama of #noNato of the May 17th weekend, it was back to grassroots building at Occupy Wall Street with the new summer disobedience school series. I found a great group of dedicated occupiers and new faces in Bryant Park on a very muggy early afternoon at the start of the Memorial Day Weekend, all in all about 200 strong.

Many of them had broken up into smaller groups to march upon the seven banks in the area that are open on Saturdays, with the goal to shut them down for at least a little while. Change thrown to the floor and only very slowly being picked up, serious questions about ethical loan policies and other interactions kept the bankers unusually busy this Saturday until the cops finally intervened and kicked everybody out.

Back at Bryant Park, NYPD’s Community Affairs Outreach group was keeping a close eye on the occupiers, which led to some heated arguments, as some protesters felt unduly singled out. Cooler heads prevailed however, and no further arguments or arrests ensure.

We then all went to Times Square for a convergence with the marching groups from the other banks to raise the People’s Alarm on the State of our Nation.

For once, we didn’t have a massive police presence, as this was a holiday weekend, and marchers had approached Times Square in “civilian mode” i.e. in small groups, not identifiable as a protest march, and not displaying any occupy banners. Contrary to earlier attempts, we managed to take the steps and set up properly to raise the People’s Alarm, a mic check alerting onlookers to the State of our Nation and the economic realities we all face.

Many tourists who had been sitting on the stairs chose to flee rather than join us, an unfortunate occurance, as this was a great opportunity to reach out to them. Still, all remained peaceful despite the oppressive heat and some shouting private security officers.

After the People’s Alarm, the group set out to march through Times Square and back to Bryant Park. Along the way we passed a group of US Navy Sailors, Army Soliders, and Marines who had set up outside the Times Square recruiting station to show off their new toys and uniforms for Fleet Week, the traditional charm offensive by the armed forces leading up to Memorial Day weekend. They weren’t quite sure what to make of us, so most just scurried away or looked on bemusedly. Some Community Affairs Officers tagged along as well, but all in all the NYPD presence was very small.

Still, the ones that did show up were cranky, an officer in plain clothes giving me a hard time for my press pass that, while not issued by the NYPD, was still intended to identify me as a working member of the press (I am a member of the National Press Photographers Association, and as such qualify as a journalist.)

After crossing Times Square the march turned onto 42nd Street to return to Bryant Park for teach-ins, civil disobedience trainings and skill share sessions, as well as outreach to passersby.

I felt the outreach part of the afternoon could have been stronger. There were no info tables or occupiers with “ask me anything” shirts around, as they tend to be at pop-up occupations. These Summer Disobedience School sessions are a great opportunity to reach out to a new community, and should not be missed.

The atmosphere relaxed markedly once everybody was back inside Bryant Park, and the cops realized we were done marching. After a brief session with all participants, people broke into groups to learn more about economics, poetry and other topics; the National Lawyers Guild held a “Know Your Rights” session, which I attended; and the Direct Action group met to plan next Saturday’s event.

Most important take-aways from the “Know Your Rights” session:

– Your rights are, while maintained in the constitution, not treated as absolute during a confrontation. Yes, in court you will most likely succeed in reinforcing them, but a cop may choose, or be instructed to ignore them on the ground. It’s important to strike a balance of standing your ground and deciding what to fight later in court.

– It is important to build a level of trust with a group of other occupiers so you can share your fears and experiences prior, during, and after protest marches, arrests, and major events. It is important to have a community of people you can trust to take care of each other, remind you of the need to deal with any outstanding summonses or other legal implications of your actions that may impact your interactions with police during and after an arrest.

– Know your rights, share that knowledge but also be smart how far you push insisting on them during marches. Sometimes cops are ordered by their superiors to ignore your rights or break the law, so never assume that just because you have a right that the cop you’re confronting a) knows those rights and b) is willing / allowed to grant them to you.

– Work together, know each other to minimize risk of infiltration.

– It was also discussed what cops do with the footage the TARU unit films at protest. Expect it to be stored indefinitely and run through iris scans and facial recognition software.

– The NLG lawyers recommended that if we see TARU film that someone stand in the way of the camera and read the Hanshu Decree to them to make sure they know that we know what they’re allowed to film and what not.

Next Summer Disobedience School session is next Saturday. I’m quite certain NYPD will be present in bigger force and better prepared …

– Julia Reinhart –

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99Solidarity Occu-Bus Day 6: ICE and Leaving Chicago


Editor’s note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story. This post originally appeared on Suicide Girls Blog. Read parts one, two, three, four (parts one and two) and five.

Chicago, IL–Monday was supposed to start with a march to Boeing’s HQ, but after the craziness of the previous day, this activist, like many I suspect, slept through it.

One of the best things about this whole Chicago odyssey had been the opportunity to meet friends in real life whom I’d previously been conversing with exclusively online. This phenomenon seemed to be universal among the protesters that had gathered in the city. Consequently, over the past few days, at marches, rallies, and at the Occupy Chicago Convergence Center, Twitter handles seemed to be more ubiquitous than names.

Having attempted but failed miserably to meet up with a group of Twitter friends that were particularly dear to me during the chaos of yesterday’s #NoNATO rally, we decided to rectify the situation first thing today. Therefore, at the crack of midday, I headed to one of the best pizza joints in town to break some authentic deep pan pizza crust with my Twitter besties.

There’s always a little anxiety when meeting digital friends in the flesh for the first time. Would/could I live up to my online persona? Would/could they? Fortunately, in this case, expectations were exceeded, and our friendship affirmed. With relief (on all sides I suspect) that our camaraderie was justified, we finished our food and moved on to the next march.

The focus of this afternoon’s action was immigration policy and ICE, however, as our procession passed the Congress Plaza Hotel on Michigan Avenue, the sight of tourists entering the site of the longest ongoing strike in the US prompted spontaneous chants of “union busting, that’s disgusting” and multiple choruses of “Solidarity Forever.” It was heartening to see occupiers embracing the finer qualities of organized labor so enthusiastically, since at times – despite a natural affinity and synergy based on shared goals – relations between Occupy and the union movement have been strained.

Heading towards the Metropolitan Correction Center, we converged with those that had been on the Boeing march earlier in the day. As our numbers increased, the policing got a little more intense. However, clearly not wanting a repeat of the violence that had marred the previous day, the white shirts were mostly making a concerted effort to facilitate our route.

I ducked out around 5PM, since I had the next day’s Suicide Girls blog content to post, and also wanted to edit and upload my last batch of photos before jumping on the bus. All fourteen 99% Solidarity-organized and National Nurses United-funded buses, which had set out from eight different cities to ferry 700 activists to the Chicago protests, were scheduled to depart at 10 PM from the same spot they’d dropped us off at on Lake Shore Drive.

During my pizza breakfast/lunch, LA Occupier b0xcar had called me to express concern at the large police presence outside the Occupy Chicago Convergence Center, where our group was converging prior to departure. That same police presence was now in evidence by our buses.

As my cab approached, one officer attempted to divert us. It was only after I explained I was actually getting on one of the buses, that he allowed my driver to pull up in vague proximity. While gathering my luggage, plus several other bags I was transporting for friends, numerous cops took turns to yell at me to hurry up. Actually offering a hand might have been more helpful than screaming at one girl who was clearly having difficulty wrangling six heavy bags. But since assistance wasn’t offered, I clenched my jaw shut and silently took the utterly superfluous verbal abuse.

Over the past 24 hours, one of the paramount concerns of the 99% Solidarity group had been to track those who’d been arrested and facilitate their release, since leaving any of our number behind would be problematic in more ways than one. Diane Moxley, a veteran activist legal adviser who was running jail support, noted that charges tended to match the severity of the baton-induced injuries so police could justify their use of force. However, as our departure time approached, the reality seemed to dawn on the Chicago Police Department that any occupier who missed our bus would likely just occupy Chicago after their eventual release. Not wanting to add to their problems – or Occupy Chicago’s ranks – all but one of our group was released in time to make their ride.

That didn’t mean everyone was going home though.

To be continued…

– Nicole Powers – 

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Protesting the Empire from Oakland to Chicago


Editors note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story. This post originally appeared on the Occupied Oakland Tribune.

Chicago, IL–We walked rapidly to meet hundreds gathered in front of the Art Institute. I found out from a comrade how the march there was started by four people, walking home from the large protest, who decided to take the streets. Yes, four people ignited hundreds! So together, at the intersection of Adams and Michigan Ave, we danced and draped our arms around each other and howled our favorite chants. “A-Anti-An-Ti-Ca-Pa-Ta-Lista. An-Anti-An-Ti-Ca-Pa-Ta-Lista.” People looked so beautiful in the streetlights, all faces absolutely shining. Oh, and it started to rain! We did not disperse! In fact, the rain was what actually gave rise to our complete exuberance. This was my favorite time, if someone were to ask me to choose.

But the riot police then moved in as a malicious force to snatch and grab a comrade (a new tactic for arresting “trouble makers”). I am sure they have a reason to put on paper, but really it was to divide us; to end our moment of cheerful solidarity. As my friend Ramon wrote of his experiences with the oppressors of his Basque people, “They don’t like seeing you having fun”.

So we voted to march, as our energy had shifted. We had a GA! And while most comrades who spoke expressed a longing to stay, to hold the space, to meet each other, when we voted it was overwhelming to march. So we marched. It was spirited at first, but became a sort of manic advance on unknown dark places as police lines blocked us from the fancy hotels filled with dignitaries we had hoped to reach. Some kids became interested in turning things over (benches, flower pots), for which Occupiers got to demonstrate our familiar beauty by turning things back and then talking to the youth. But cops moved in shortly after with a reason.

These cops were not the ones with the brimmed hats and the pressed suits, who stood on street corners engaging pleasantly with folks. These wore black body armor. They were huge. They looked like robocops. They reminded me of OPD. We were walking very fast in the back, and the scuffling sounds their back body armor made as all of them rushed in behind me… Do you know what that is like? When your body goes to “fight or flight?” And then they tackled someone, the scuffling sounds peaking, and I turned around and saw four or five holding a woman up against a wall, her arm pinned above her head, the shock on her face! A woman! We walked towards her and said “We are just watching you arrest our friend. We have a right to do so.” But they didn’t follow those laws, and we felt this and started for the march again. And again I heard hideous sounds and turned around to see another sister thrown to the ground with officers on top of her. I left. I headed for the nearest subway stop. I did not turn around again.

I spoke with other Occupiers during the convergence who have deduced that police go after women to insight our anger. How it is that police around the country are displaying similar tactics at the same time. Who is giving these orders?

I return to Oakland the next day to find that another young black man has been murdered by OPD. They claim Alan Blueford had a gun. But really, the officer shot Alan three times and then once in his own foot for his own protection. And now I find out they have just arrested my friend…

We are being systematically brutalized and murdered by the state because of who we are and what we represent. It’s very romantic to think change comes about in peaceful, non-interrupting ways. But that is not our consciousness yet, and now I struggle with the notion that maybe it is not the goal after all. So, I join my comrades on the street and yell, “Stand Up, Fight Back!”

What I saw in Chicago were so many brave people, using their bodies (no shields!) between others and police. To be on the front lines as the crowd attempts to push through and police beat heads with billyclubs… “What did they say back in ’68?” one officer said. “Billyclub to the fucking skull,” another officer replied.

I read an article about revolutionaries in Egypt, impoverished by the system, who come to the mosques for refuge, their eyes red from the tear gas, their bodies bloody from police weapons. They receive medical attention, food and water and then take back to the streets to return to the front lines. We are resisting! Please, don’t tell us to be peaceful. We have tried that long enough. And our redwood forests are gone; our black, brown and poor people and abducted, incarcerated and murdered by the state; the Keystone Pine line is being built! Lakota grandmothers are standing in front of supply trucks. Let us have our anger! Let us demonstrate outrage! It is necessary.
We are in the midst of great transformation. And we are being challenged physically, mentally, emotionally on so many levels. Our adrenal systems (controlling hormones), nervous systems (controls signals between different body parts), muscular systems, are all hypervigilant.

Let’s take care of ourselves. And take care of each other.

Love Live the Oakland Commune and Fuck the Police!

– Molly Batchelder – 

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Solidarity During Wartime in the Streets of Chicago


Editors note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story. This post originally appeared on Shareable. Photos by Aaron Cynic and John Robb except where otherwise noted. View the full gallery. Additional photo and news aggregation by Paul M. Davis using Storify.

Chicago, IL -My feet are completely blistered, my bones are sore. I’m dehydrated, bruised and beyond exhausted. I’ve spent four days on the streets of Chicago, running through streets and alleys, cameras strapped to my body, frantically trying to take in as much information about the protests surrounding the NATO summit on Sunday and Monday.

For two days, world leaders gathered in Chicago to discuss what tens of thousands of activists described as the world’s largest game of Risk, where the stakes amount to life and death for citizens around the globe.

Some might accuse me of hyperbole, but considering the massive amount of civilian casualties (including women and children) in countries like Libya and Kosovo, bombed by NATO forces, the silent voices of the dead would probably disagree.

For the average Chicago resident, hosting the NATO summit fell short of what Mayor Rahm Emanuel predicted in nearly every way. City officials and other higher-ups in the Democratic party heralded the meeting of world leaders as a chance to showcase Chicago as a “world class city,” hoping it would be a boon to the local economy. We were assured of peace in the streets. According to officials, massive security spending will be reimbursed by the federal government, though the city’s coffers remain empty.

The city spent months preparing to host the summits, as did activists both locally and nationally. Thousands bused into town beginning many days before the summit, but Chicago residents had been chattering about them many months prior. Many concerns were over logistics – hosting world leaders means an incredible amount of security which would snarl traffic, make traveling difficult, and shut down business as usual in the city for days.

NATO protest night march 5/20/12. Photo by Kate Harnedy.

Between media hype surrounding potential protester violence, resulting in local businesses boarding up their windows (and shutting down completely for a few days, in some cases,) and the logistical inconveniences created, authorities did half the job of protesters for them by effectively shutting down the city. Places often bustling with tourists and traffic were virtual ghost towns, as many people wanted to avoid dealing with the drama a meeting of world leaders who often ignore their subjects creates.

On Saturday, May 19th, activists who came to Chicago to protest the NATO summit held over the weekend headed to the city’s north side in a show of solidarity with local activists fighting to save six neighborhood mental health clinics already closed or slated for closure. Photos by Aaron Cynic, more atDiatribe Media.

During the months of buildup to the summit, local activists managed to connect NATO to a host of issues which affect the residents of Chicago on a daily basis. Our mayor and city can afford to pay for the 1% to play, but can’t afford to fix our crumbling school system, mental health care system, public transportation and more. Members of various activist groups, including the Mental Health Movement, Stand Up Chicago, Occupy Chicago and many more staged countless marches, rallies, sit ins and occupations.

Two local clinics closed by the city still have a 24 hour presence maintained outside their barred doors. A coalition called CANG8 and Occupy Chicago both spent months making banners, obtaining permits, planning routes and rallying activists to shout through the streets in one clear, deafening voice “NONATO.” Meanwhile, the city prepared for war, militarizing its police force with shiny new “less than lethal” weapons, body armor, and surveillance equipment to confront what most activists were planning as a peaceful protest.

The march continued snaking through the streets for hours, and the crowd slowly dissipated, but hundreds still swarmed the streets. Eventually, at another point where protesters were stopped, a Chicago police van attempted to push its way through the crowd. As protesters attempted to stop the van from pushing its way through demonstrators, the driver hit the accelerator, striking at least two people and sending one to the hospital.

These instances and others were the catalyst for the mood of Sunday’s march on McCormick Place, where more than ten thousand marched for miles down Michigan Avenue to show their disapproval for NATO. The main march was completely peaceful and permitted, but as we drew nearer to the end point, one could feel the tension on both sides of police lines. A group of veterans ceremoniously threw medals they had been awarded in the direction of their generals from a makeshift stage, each telling their story of why they no longer wanted them. 

A woman from Afghans For Peace spoke of the continued struggle Afghan people face under NATO occupation. Well before the planned conclusion of the rally, police began massing, riot gear at the ready, and the more militant marchers readied themselves for an imminent confrontation everyone seemed to know would take place when dispersal orders went down.

Thousands of people streamed out of the area while others decided to stay and attempt to push forward, towards the actual location of the summit, and the gloves came off. Police wielded their batons indiscriminately, striking protesters, journalists and legal observers. Protesters pushed back, flinging a barricade at one point, throwing bottles at another. Many were injured or arrested. The area was cordoned off, no one was allowed in or out. Friends, family and colleagues were cut off from information regarding their brothers and sisters, and the predictions of blood staining the streets of Chicago came true. In the aftermath, protesters regrouped and led non-permitted marches through The Loop. On Sunday evening, they converged on the Art Institute, where Michelle Obama hosted dinner for NATO dignitaries. The mood was tense. Throughout the rest of the summit, protesters and police played cat and mouse games in the streets, but thankfully, the same level of violence did not occur.

On Monday, they marched on Boeing headquarters to highlight the corporation’s connection to the military industrial complex, and later held a press conference which turned into a dance party in front of President Obama’s campaign headquarters. In the evening, a few hundred marched through the loop to protest the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, responsible for so many detentions and deportations.

 

What I witnessed on the streets of my city for nearly a week showed the dichotomy which exists between the state and those who want to change or completely oppose it. Activists who fight for change always face intimidation tactics. But the larger the organization, the harder the push back. Fighting city hall to keep a mental health clinic open or create an encampment in the park was difficult enough, but fighting a global war machine engendered a reaction the likes of which some people had never seen.

Still, activists persevered, adapted, and took care of each other. When I ran out of water, everyone from legal observers to masked anarchists were happy to share what little they had left. When various protesters faced targeted arrests, others stepped in to try to prevent them. Hundreds marched for miles to show solidarity at the jail the arrested were taken. Street medics took care of the injured and reminded the exhausted of the wellness center created for them. Independent journalists from all over the world banded together in solidarity, sharing information, looking after each other and supporting those who were targeted for surveillance or arrest by law enforcement. People who were relative strangers before they hit the streets together shared some of the longest and most caring hugs I have ever seen.

Photo by Paul Weiskel.

If it’s one thing I can take away from observing, writing about, and participating in the protests at the NATO summit, it’s that creating community will be what saves the world. Systems of alliances and mutual defense pacts continue the same “us versus them” Cold War mentality which has left the world littered with a class structure that no state can fix. But while the rich and powerful ate well and sat in comfortable air conditioning moving pawns across their chessboards, those in the streets forged friendships and shared struggles which created bonds that will outlast any empire.

-Aaron Cynic- 

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