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.
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.]]>
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]]>
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 –]]>
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.
Excitement for the dawn of a day that had taken much planning was severely tempered by the harsh reality of the night before. Sleep deprived but running on adrenalin, our group headed over to Grant Park.
In the same way the powers that be had tried to frame the narrative for the May Day ‘General Strike’ action by conveniently breaking news that morning of a terrorist plot by supposed Occupy activists, news of the arrest of the NATO 3 on the eve of M20 had been a prominent talking point over the past day. However, by now, more details were emerging, which made the whole scenario seem very suspect.
A pattern had started to emerge that had distinct similarities to the alleged May 1st plan to blow up an Ohio bridge – a scenario that turned out to be facilitated by the FBI to entrap a group of unfortunates who, left to their own devices, would likely be barely able to set off fireworks on bonfire night. Similarly, with the NATO 3 there was much talk of planted evidence and a highly suspect search warrant.
Following a speech by Jesse Jackson, Chris Geovanis of Chicago Indymedia briefed members of the media under the shade of a press not-quite-tent. She told us that when the police conducted the search that had lead to the NATO 3’s arrest it had taken them four hours to produce a warrant which was unsigned when it finally arrived. “That is the hallmark of dirty policing in this town,” said Giovanis, “There may very well be police entrapment here.”
The sun was beating down on Grant Park, so as the rallying cries began in the band shell, protesters were mostly scattered to take advantage of any shade they could find. Tactical and medic briefings wisely took place amidst clumps of trees.
Just before 2 PM, the protesters – and police – began to take formation, lining up in the road alongside the park. Protesters took their place in the center of the street, which was lined by police in riot helmets on either side. At the top of the march, ahead of the official rally banner, press were kettled in a pen of their own. Two police trucks were parked in front of the press pen, and in front of them, somewhat bizarrely, there was a red double-decker sight-seeing bus, the top floor of which was filled with news camera crews.
As the march set off, with the indie media segregated from the protesters, they resorted to interviewing each other. This made more sense that it might otherwise have, since the persecution of key livestreamers and members of the Twitterverse and Bloggersphere, had become one of the main stories of the day.
Walking through the streets of Chicago, I fell in step with Luke Rudkowski a.k.a. @Lukewearechange, who was giving an on camera interview as he did his livestreaming thing. Listening in, I heard him talk about how he’d spent the night at a “safe house” outside of the city. This was a precaution several other streamers had thought it prudent to take. “We stream live, raw and unedited for people to make up their own mind,” explained Luke to the old guard reporter. “It’s a very weird situation when homeland security is interviewing your friends about you.”
When they weren’t comparing war stories from the past 24-hours, those in the press kettle were gleefully mocking the news crews atop the double-decker bus. Physically separated from the actual march by the two police trucks, these so called “journalists” were limited to reporting a perspective the police controlled. It served as a graphic illustration as to why the world is tuning into livestreams as mainstream news audiences continue to fall.
Halfway through the march, I ducked under the leading “NO to NATO warmakers” banner and worked my way back through the impressively large mass of bodies. I found my friends just as the march ground to a halt at a point where a group of veterans intended to symbolically hand back their medals. Hot, tired, and too far back to hear the speeches, we spread our large banner on the ground and lay down on top of it.
As I lay back and sunbathed with my eyes closed, I could hear the crowd at the head of the march taunting the cops on horseback who were blocking their way (“Get that animal off that horse”). When I open them once more, much of the crowd has already dissipated. Parched, I left my group, and went in search of somewhere to buy a drink. This turned out to be a highly fortuitous time to act on my thirst.
As I headed back along the march route I encountered massive formations of ominously attired officers from a variety of law enforcement agencies. The state police I passed in full RoboCop body armor looked particularly threatening, sporting batons of a size and length more akin to baseball bats. Before ducking into a convenience store I passed one who was clearly in a leadership role. His smile, swagger, not to mention the large, lighted cigar he made a huge show of savoring all seemed highly inappropriate.
Heading back with supplies in hand, I bumped into my California 99% Solidarity media bus comrade @CodeFrameSF. He was one of several new but fast friends I’d made over the course of this hectic and historic weekend. As we made our way back towards the rally the CPD issued their first dispersal warning. A few minutes later the first of several injured and bloodied protesters began to trickle by, the most severe cases were being tended to and/or carried by Occupy medics. At this point, having got a fair idea of what was likely to come watching the livestreams the previous night, this reporter decided to get the fuck out of dodge.
Back in the relative comfort of the 99% Solidarity base camp, I monitored the livestreams. With the permit having timed out at 4 PM for the official march, it had now morphed into one of the wildcat variety, which was being policed with increasing ferocity.
Once again, the mainstream press were paying attention to Occupy for all the wrong reasons. Members of our group clustered around the TV and channel surfed through several network news reports.
The visions of violence were so shocking that the collective tone of the anchors was distinctly sympathetic to those on the business end of the batons. “We’ve also seen police officers pummeling people and we don’t know why,” noted CNN’s Don Lemon. Later on in the same report, after viewing a particularly brutal shot, he exclaimed, “My goodness! Does anyone deserve that?”
Reports of injuries and arrests were coming in thick and fast. At this point one of our number with legal experience peeled off to do jail support.
Disturbed by the riot porn that was taking over the TV on all channels, and in need of food and beverages of the alcoholic variety, the rest of our group decamped to a local eatery. The conversation was subdued, as our number stared down at their iPhone and iPad screens, keeping tabs on the wildcat marches that continued on for several hours.
As we walked back our base, a by now beyond capacity Red Roof Inn room, a brief moment of semi-delirious levity took hold as we spontaneously broke out in a chorus of our new favorite chant: “What do we want? Time travel. When do we want it? It’s relevant.” Yeah, I know, it’s occu-humor. Like much about the movement, you either get it or you don’t.
Full disclosure: Nicole Powers has been assisting with 99% Solidarity’s efforts and is in no way an impartial observer. She is proud of this fact.
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 1 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 2 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 3 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road TripFrom Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 4 (Pt. 1) Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 4 (Pt. 2) Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
Chicago, IL – The action that had taken up much of the first part of my day had gone down in my personal history as one of the most civilized political protests I’d ever participated in (see previous post). It was in a great neighborhood – the mayor’s – in the midst of a handsome tree-lined street, which provided just the right amount of shade. The neighbors we surprisingly happy to see us, which is testament to how popular Rahm Emanuel is in his own hood. There was lots of beautiful flowering shrubbery, albeit with riot cops popping up out of it at regular intervals, and vendors were serving ice cream and fruit popsicles out of carts.
Afterwards I’d hopped onto a train and returned to 99% Solidarity’s temporary base to edit images and exploit their wi-fi so I could upload them. I’d also intended to post an updated blog, but then shit started hitting the proverbial fan…
I first began to realize that something was awry when several sources warned me it might be best if I refrained from attending a National Streamers Meeting that was planned for that evening. Then Twitter started to explode with news that superstar livestreamer Tim Pool’s (aka @Timcast) Chicago lodging had been surrounded and searched. Later Pool tweeted that his car had been stopped and that he, fellow streamer Luke Rudkowski a.k.a. @Lukewearechange, and three others has been detained by CPD at gunpoint (see video below). Other 140 character or less posts confirmed the monitoring, detainment and/or arrest of several other online personalities and streamers.
Justified paranoia set in amongst their ranks as they realized they may have become targets of a coordinated effort to silence the truly free media. @YourAnonNewsperhaps summed it up best, when they called it a “a war on bloggers.”
The rationale for this strategy became all too apparent after two marches – one in support of the NATO 3 who had been arrested earlier in the day and another against police brutality – converged and rapidly devolved into a brutal cat and mouse game. After several hours, the police kettled increasingly panicked protesters in Millennium Park.
At this point, I got a call from one of our #CaliDST members @TRWBS, who’d been shooting at close quarters when a police van had seemingly deliberately plowed down a protester (he was later identified as Jack Amico of Occupy Wall Street). @TRWBS’ footage of the incident was among the first to be archived, and rapidly went viral (see video below). There were numerous other images being posted of shocking uses of force, arrests, and bloody injuries.
Video streaming by Ustream
Like a deer in headlights, at one point I just sat head in hands, overwhelmed by what was coming through on the various Twitter and Livestreams. Events were unfolding faster than I could process them. I was at a loss for words, so I stopped even trying to type. And just when I thought shit couldn’t get crazier, it did.
Likely panicked by footage of the carnage on the street, which by now had hit the mainstream news, a call came into 99% Solidarity’s base saying that the bus company had cancelled all of the NNU-sponsored buses which had been booked to transport protesters from Occupy Chicago’s Convergence Center to the main #M20 #NoNATO rally at Grant Park the next day. The tone of the bus coordinator’s voice, which I overheard as it was broadcast on speakerphone, said more than any of the words he actually used as he laid out a litany of so last minute they were implausible excuses as to why suddenly absolutely none of the fleet of 14 buses would be available the next day.
With chaos still raining on the streets, I monitored the livestreams to make sure my fearless #CaliDST friends were OK. One by one they signed off for the night, and as the Twitterverse calmed down I finally succumbed to sleep.
Full disclosure: Nicole Powers has been assisting with 99% Solidarity’s efforts and is in no way an impartial observer. She is proud of this fact.
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 1 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 2 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 3 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road TripFrom Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 4 (Pt. 1) Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
Activist and writer Natalie Solidarity spent much of her time on the front lines of the protests against the NATO summit in Chicago all weekend. On Saturday [May19], at an anti-capitalist march, police attacked protesters with clubs after stopping the march on State Street and Washington. Later in the evening, a police van drove through the crowd, striking at least one demonstrator and sending him to the hospital. Natalie recaps the events in this video.
Chicago, IL- I’m sharing this story in order to give credit where credit is due, and to express my love and appreciation for a fellow Occupier, who always goes above and beyond the call.
On Sunday, my friend, and fellow Occupier, Matt, bravely stood up to a white shirt, to negotiate my entrance into an alley where protesters were seriously injured.
Most of our friends were trapped inside a massive kettle, and the police were continuing to push most of us back. A handful of injured protesters had been helped into a triage area by street medics, at the mouth of an alleyway. The police were in head busting mode, and just talking to them felt dangerous.
There were too few medics in the triage area, and the police had just barricaded the alley. The medics inside were crying out for more assistance. I tried to talk my way in, but the police, including the white shirts, would not listen.
Matt appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and approached one of the white shirts, to ask that I be allowed inside. The exchange was obviously quite contentious. I didn’t hear everything that was said, but the white shirt eventually barked, “Okay, just her,” and ordered the blue shirts move the barricade. I looked back at my friends, and with mutual worry in our eyes, we parted ways, and I darted forward.
In that alley, we had three bloody head injuries, and one blunt force trauma injury to the chest. The police would not let EMS anywhere near us. We tried calling 911 dispatch, but to no avail. The police had total control of the next street over, so there was absolutely no excuse for their actions. We were told we had to move these people.
Patients with head injuries, for the record, should not be moved in this way. One man began to vomit the moment he stood up. We were told to take them all the way to State Street. One of the out of town medics gave me a street medic patch to put on, as I had no red tape on, at the time. I have various certifications, but I hadn’t planned on acting as a medic that day. Ultimately, I had little choice, as the police had kettled numerous medics, and restricted the movements of others. They had injured peaceful protesters, and then kept medical assistance at bay.
I have witnessed police brutality, and general indifference to suffering, in the past, but I must admit that this experience got under my skin in a way that others have not. It’s actually very hard to put into words. The memory of it feels like a wound that will probably take some time to heal. I suppose I am fortunate. The bruises I suffered that day are quite minor, compared to some.
I suppose I am also fortunate, as are we all, that people like Matt are part of this struggle. Occupiers like him make this fight possible, and remind me that no matter what happens, we still have each other.
To anyone who is still naive enough to believe that the police are our potential allies… I can’t begin to tell you how wrong you are.
To Matt… thank you for being brave, and for being strong, and for looking out for your fellow protesters. You are an inspiration, and I’m proud to stand alongside you.
This post originally appeared at Diatribe Media.
Chicago, IL–The day kicked off in a tame but at least celebratory manner at a rally held in Daley Plaza by National Nurses United. After two hours of speeches and wandering around a square grabbing random flyers and other literature, there was no way that at least part of the 3,000 plus people standing on the square were simply going to go home. Everyone knew it, and one could feel a nervous sense of excitement wafting on the air while the last few chords of Tom Morello’s performance rang out. As people still milled about and I waited to see exactly when an unpermitted march would begin, the Chicago police made what appeared to be a very targeted snatch and grab of a masked protester. According to reports, the police attempted to ask the man a few questions, he refused to answer and was immediately led away in handcuffs. He was charged with disorderly conduct.
That incident was all the rest of the crowd on the plaza needed to incite them to move, and soon enough after a tense few minutes between police and protesters, we were in the streets headed south on Clark, with no clear destination in mind but a sense of determination that we’d march and shut the streets of Chicago down. The anger towards the police was palpable, not only with the most recent arrest in mind, but also keeping into consideration the arrest of eight activists in a night time raid the day before. Three of the arrested are still being held, now being charged with crimes related to terrorism. Shouts of “no justice, no peace, fuck the police” came from hundreds of voices and reverberated off every piece of glass and concrete in the loop.
Still, as the march snaked its way through the streets downtown, the police were mostly restrained. I waited and expected to see a wall of riot police, clad in black with clubs and tear gas at the ready as we turned down various corners, but the hundreds of officers on the street merely wore plain clothes. The march eventually made its way through part of Millennium Park, eventually climbing onto Randolph near Obama’s campaign headquarters. As we started heading west down Randolph, unmarked vans filled with police in riot gear began to pull up. One of CPD’s two LRAD trucks sat ominously but silently on a corner. At the corner of Randolph and Michigan, the unpermitted march that began at the end of the NNU rally met a second set of environmental justice marchers.
Together we marched for a short while longer through the Loop and eventually were stopped at the bridge over the Chicago river on Michigan Avenue, where one demonstrator scaled a bridge tower and managed to rip a banner in half put up by the city to welcome NATO delegates to town. After ringing a large bell on the tower, he jumped down and police attempted to make an arrest. Protesters managed to dearrest him, but another demonstrator was tackled and held by police. Several demonstrators tried to intervene, shouting at police while media who managed to make it close to the situation attempted to document. While I frantically attempted to get photos of the scene, a wall of about a dozen blue helmeted police in full riot gear, clubs drawn flooded the small area on the bridge where an officer was standing on the demonstrator and we were pushed out. Almost immediately, the scene changed from an intense but peaceful demonstration to a tense standoff between protesters and police geared up for battle. Police made one more arrest as hundreds of officers in riot gear filled the streets.
Eventually, remnants of the march headed back through the loop down State Street, chanting at a scarce amount of afternoon shoppers to put away their wallets and let go of their attachment to consumerism. Still holding the street with nearly 300 strong, marchers made their way towards LaSalle and Jackson, home of Occupy Chicago, flanked by hundreds of police on bikes. Shortly after reports of an attempt to kettle demonstrators, protesters headed out to various other actions. Some to a direct action training and celebration in the park at the horse, site of two sets of arrests of Occupy Chicago members during attempts to create an encampment in October, others to jail solidarity to support those arrested.