Chicago, IL–“What are you doing for New Year’s?” The question, posed by friends and family members this past week, seemed innocent enough. When I cheerfully answered, “Protesting the prison industrial complex,” however, most people were taken aback.
My sister-in-law tried to convince me that a prison protest on New Year’s Eve would accomplish nothing beyond annoying the guards. A friend said I should take the day off of political activism and do something fun. My parents have given up making sense of my extracurricular activities altogether.
But to me, a prison noise demonstration was the only place I wanted to be. I have been very active in supporting political prisoners this past year, primarily the NATO 5 and Jeremy Hammond. Through my interactions with them and the system that has taken them hostage, I have come to recognize how many lives are ruined when we lock people in cages. I no longer trust the “justice” system to determine guilt or innocence, and I know that the prisons have done far more harm to individuals and our society as a whole than can ever be justified.
The first noise demonstration began mid-afternoon at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, a federal prison. Like many protest actions I have attended, there was a festive spirit to the gathering. Many protesters wore brightly colored masks and used a variety of New Year’s party noisemakers to add to the general ruckus. The plaza was still cordoned off with yellow CRIME SCENE tape from a recent prison break, in which two bank robbers successfully wove a rope out of bed sheets and lowered themselves down 15 stories. One of the men remains at large. We asked people to bring their old bed sheets and knotted them into a rope of our own right there in the plaza. It was a symbol of liberation for all who are incarcerated as well as an embarrassing reminder of the facility’s recent security breach.
We chanted and sang, shouted and danced. A few people swung the bed sheets like a jump rope. We marched around the building, followed closely by Chicago Police Department and Department of Homeland Security vehicles. The building goes straight up and has only the narrowest of windows, but we were soon able to see prisoners waving at us from every floor. Some turned their lights off and on repeatedly to get our attention. We cheered. The guards just stood their ground and glared at us.
The first noise demo ended at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building. A woman spoke about travesty of workplace raids, as well as whole families rounded up in home raids, all resulting in record numbers of deportations. These immigration detention centers are like a shadow prison system – “detention” is not considered “incarceration” and a different set of rules apply to the undocumented.
The plan was to circle the perimeter of the jail, which is close to a 2-mile walk. (Cook County is not only one of the most notorious jails in the country, but also the largest, and houses 10,000 inmates at any given time.) But first we veered off course and crossed the street to stop by Division 11, the newest section of the jail, built outside of the main compound. The other divisions are set back behind rolls of razor wire or overlap with other buildings, blocking our view of the windows. But Division 11 has windows facing directly onto an open plaza, and we were able to easily see and be seen by those inside.
The reaction of the inmates to our presence was incredible. We saw rows of silhouettes waving, clapping, dancing, jumping with joy. They banged on the windows and flickered their lights at us. One inmate took off his uniform shirt and swung it around his head. It was the most electric, uplifting feeling imaginable. The band played louder, we danced and clapped and made some noise. We ignored the guards yelling at us and the lights flashing atop squad cars and gave it everything we had. When we finally turned back to circle the main compound, a young woman stopped banging on a pot lid long enough to exchange a high five and irrepressible grin with me.
The jubilant spirit did not last long. Within a few minutes, we were having a tense confrontation with our law enforcement escorts, which result in a violent and entirely unnecessary arrest. The protester would later be charged with felony aggravated battery, but the only violence I saw that night was perpetrated by officers of the law on unarmed, peaceful activists.
Still, we made a complete circuit around the jail. On the last leg of the journey we spent some time blocking a side street with the bed sheet rope snaked between us, dancing and singing. It was a glorious moment, in no way diminished by the police officers watching us dubiously from every direction.
As a society, we try to hide our problems, to lock them away instead of working proactively on solutions. When our problems inevitably worsen and multiply we lock those away, too – and find a way to make the whole system profitable for well-connected individuals and corporations. We do everything possible to make prisoners –– most of whom are serving time for non-violent offenses, most of whom have dark skin –– invisible.
Noise demos such as these, in solidarity with others held on New Year’s Eve across the globe, refuse to buy in to that mentality. We stand up and say: They have hidden you away, but we see you. They have told us to forget, but we remember you. They have demanded that jail be miserable and dehumanizing –– but we brought you a marching band.
In a call from Cook County Jail on the morning of December 31st, one of the NATO 5 explained to me: “It’s hard to be in here this time of year. Even if you aren’t big on celebrating the holidays, other people are feeling it. Everybody is missing someone.”
I feel good about how we spent New Year’s Eve. It was exciting to see prisoners expressing joy, which they get to do so rarely. It was cathartic to unleash my own pent up frustration at the jail’s unforgiving walls in the form of a primal, wordless scream. Most of all, it was inspiring to see so many others committed to supporting prisoners in 2013 and beyond.
This is what solidarity looks like.
Photos courtesy of Lee Klawans and Chicago Indymedia.]]>
I awake at 7:45 to Simone saying, “Knock, knock. Who’s there? It’s daddy!” and flinging the pillow off of my face.
The day feels rushed from the start. Simone has a birthday party to go to, Beth wants to work out and clean the house, Pearl won’t nap and everything feels condensed, agitated, exacerbated. Before I know it, the clock reads 11 and I soon need to leave.
“I don’t want our kids to say fifteen years from now, ‘Mom, you missed out on history to clean the kitchen?’” Beth says.
I call Jonathan, see if he wants to meet. He can’t; he’s doing the school thing. We chat for a minute about books and the ennui and he says he feels the same perennial self-dislike I wrote about two weeks ago. I say I feel frustration with the human race. “Our brains are ninety percent chimp,” he says.
I want to take Simone but I’d literally have to turn around and come right back. I vacillate. I waffle. Maybe I should skip. Spend some time with my family. What difference does one person make?
“You should go,” Beth says. “Just go. Go. Go.”
Simone has no pants on. I leave her behind. She cries as I shut the door.
On the platform, the day is warm. I’m taking notes. I can’t think of how to spell “exacerbate.” I entertain the notion I’ve had a mini-stroke.
People discuss college football. I want to yell, “Don’t you know what’s going on? Don’t you know what’s at stake?”
Black shirts and baseball caps. Baby strollers—anger isn’t our main obstacle; apathy is.
Sports television bubble gum Coors Light and holding hands in a grassy park and brunch and lunch and dinner and the bright glowing wondrous banal spectrum of living without the burden of other people’s problems.
The train arrives. I get on. The trip is uneventful. I can’t read or write on the train else I get a headache so I let my thoughts drift. I’m antsy. Visions of a riot, police in riot gear sobbing while dousing protestors with tear gas. I save two dozen small children, meet the president, become a folk hero. Someone like Josh Ritter writes a song. Where do my thoughts come from?
I exit at Washington/Wells, cross under the tracks. Five years in Chicago and I’ve never been on the pink line. I sit on a metal bench. Someone has written in black letters on the seat: “Are there any pimps left?”
Other teachers, other red shirts. A ten-year-old wears a blue shirt that reads only, “Love.”
I wish Simone were here with me. I’m glad she’s not. I wait glum and unshaven. At least it isn’t hot. I’m not hungry but I want to eat. I don’t smoke but I crave a cigarette. I’m struggling with the sublimation process. How to let go of all this frustration in the air? How do I find the courage not to hate?
Union Park is huge. I enter through the wrought-iron gates. Fifty aqua-blue portolets line the edges of the park. Two dozen people stand in line to buy hot dogs. An enormous crimson crescent of people encircle a stage. I make my way over. It’s hard to gauge how many people are here. Thousands, yes, but maybe not tens of thousands. It’s a Saturday. The contract negotiation appears to be over. The sense of historical importance has faded just a touch.
A church spire slices through the trees. I see two helicopters and a plane. One of the Occupy Rogers Park people says hi. She invites me to the next occupy meeting.
I get a text from Bill. He isn’t coming. He has his wife and their upcoming child to attend to. He’s sent an impassioned little text to all his teacher friends.
I find a patch in the middle that isn’t crowded. I listen to a female speaker with a gut-wrenching voice. She gets right to the heart of it. “It’s time for the working people of Chicago to take back the city that works. . . . We got to stand up to the tactics that are destroying our city. We got to hold every damn body accountable, the teachers, the parents, the mayor, the alderman, every damn body.”
I cheer. I clap. The mood of the gathering is less festive. More resolute. There’s already a touch of grim resolve in the air, not one full week in.
Another speaker. A union organizer and teacher for charter schools. He explains that charter school teachers aren’t the enemy, just the mindset that would allow teachers to work for so little pay. I clap. He explains how hard the charter schools fight any talk of unions at all. I cheer.
More speakers appear but I’m losing interest. I agree with what they are saying, I have my family at home, I’d prefer to march and chat and sing.
I feel a hand on my ass. It’s Jonathan. We catch up. He’s at Hawthorne now. He’s writing an entire curriculum for the upper grades, connecting all the subjects. He’s nuts. Every night, after the marching and chanting and yelling, he goes home to work on a new unit. He has a tambourine and he hits it with what looks like a tiny maraca. He was a union organizer years and years ago. He’s in a rock band. He rules.
Another speaker mentions a teacher strike in Baltimore back in the day. She ends with this: “I used to tell people, if you see me wrestling with a bear, help the bear.” The crowd roars. “We’re fighting the bear, but we don’t need any help.”
Jonathan asks if I want to get a beer, but I can’t. I want to make it home to help with Simone and the birthday party. We hug, I leave out. The rally is subdued but well attended. A coalescing of union people, antiwar people, hippies, and teachers. Teachers haven’t been part of the counter culture for a long time. It feels right.
I climb back up the stairs and wait for the train. The anxiety and sleeplessness and uncertainty of things has left me with weary legs. Two police officers lean on the banister overlooking Union Park. A sea of red. I think of red blood cells. One of the cops has a cigar. They seem amused. We can’t quite make out what the speaker is saying from here.
Two teachers emerge from the train. “Is it over?” they ask.
I feel sheepish. “Oh, no, no, I have two little children at home, else I would . . .”
Everything’s a rush. The American condition. Hurry up and wait. The daily dilemma. One reason I’ve never ridden the pink line is it only seems to run every six hours. I wait. I look at the clock on my cell. An ivy-covered chimney juts out into my view. The train arrives. I board, noticing how clean and new the train feels. I transfer back to the brown line and head north.
An old-timer with his name tattooed on his forearm speaks to me about the strike. He has big teeth and an odd way of speaking. “Is it almost over?” he asks. His name is Don.
“I think so. I hope so,” I say.
“There’s no money.”
“There’s money,” I say, and the whole train is listening, “it’s just a question of priorities. Money for schools or no-interest loans to property developers?”
“People in the suburbs like me are being double-taxed for Chicago public schools.”
I wince inside. “You’re being double taxed?”
He nods. “Cook County.”
“I don’t know about that, but I do know that Chicago has for decades underfunded public education. Some students don’t even have textbooks.”
He’s mad at first, but I just talk with him and soon he isn’t mad at all. He moves over to my side of the train.
He tells me his story. He’s a product of Chicago public schools. He has severe dyslexia, so severe he still can’t read. “But I own my own business, I’m doing just fine.” He has a little window washing company that cleans the windows of every Dunkin Donuts downtown. “The teachers then knew I wouldn’t pass any tests, so instead they taught me how to cook, how to use my memory, how to fix things.”
I explain that people like him—smart people with learning disabilities—are precisely the ones who are most harmed by the always-be-testing mindset.
He goes on. “Every Friday, back when I was in school, two teachers and they would rotate, two teachers would donate their time to run a dance. They would pat each person down, make sure there were no weapons or anything, and then we would have a dance. It was great. The kids, we all knew that the teachers cared about us. School was more than just a place you had to go.”
I said we do the same thing now—just not the patting and the weekly dance.
Don loves to talk. And he loves to reminisce. He keeps saying the expression, “back when I was in school.”
Turns out the lady sitting next to me is his wife. She’s quiet, also a product of Chicago public schools, and soon all three of us are having a nice time as the El stops pass. Don then tells me how he ran a building for a while. “A guy says to me, I like you, I can’t get my tenants to pay the rent, why don’t you work for me for a while? So I get into the super business on a building on Sheridan, in Uptown. When tenants didn’t pay their rent, I would take their doors off the hinges. I would shut down the elevator. I would turn off the washer and dryer. People came up with the money real fast with no door on their apartment. You see, back then, the door was considered part of the building, not the apartment. And it cost you $942 to take someone to eviction court. Better to take the door off the hinges, let them walk five blocks for laundry. Man, they paid.” He and his wife laugh, they aren’t bad people but I’m uncomfortable with this new story. I give a cursory laugh anyway.
We shake hands. I thank them for their company.
At home I find Beth in the kitchen and Simone running around the house naked. No nap. The party starts in 20 minutes. Beth hasn’t been able to clean. Simone fights me about what she wants to wear. She’s tired but excited about the party and it is a bad combination. We leave early, meet a neighborhood friend on the way.
The block party is just starting and children are making their way to the three-year-old’s birthday bash. A little table with glue and stickers and party hats, a bowl full of bagged dried apples and cheese goldfish, juice boxes swimming in a tub of ice and a keg of Half-Acre beer. I’m angry at the dissonance of the world, I can’t help it, I’m too tired for any kind of decent small talk, I sit alone and brood.
I sip a beer feeling morose. The alcohol does its dark magic. The party has two ponies, one white the other black, for the kids to ride. Simone is fascinated by them but passes on getting in the saddle. “That’s too scary for me,” she tells Beth.
I lean back.
There’s a danger in writing about something as you are going through it. You begin to narrate your own life. I look up at the sun-touched branches, the green tips of the thousand leaves turned gold, and I think, “I look up at the sun-touched branches, the green tips of the thousand leaved turned gold.”
Day six has ended. The strike has not. I fall asleep quickly, but Simone awakens me at 2 to tuck her into bed. After that, I’m up. I sit down and begin writing, hoping to capture as much as I can before the memories slip away.
– Ben Beard –]]>
Chicago, IL–It’s quieter than you might expect. I’m in the middle of a crowd of NATO protesters, and nothing is happening.
Not “nothing,” exactly. We are marching, though it may be more accurate to describe it as trudging. (To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a person who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on.)
Hours earlier, we marched this route in reverse, in much larger numbers. There was chanting and singing. Bullhorns blasted our messages to curious residents and concealed snipers on high rises lining South Michigan Avenue. Signs waved, flags flew.
In an hour-long ceremony, veterans of the misnomered War on Terror threw their medals back toward the leaders who made unilateral decisions that ended in needless loss of life. The crowd alternately cheered and hushed in sympathy with the brave men and women standing up for their beliefs. It was impossible to witness without being moved.
Even the violence was quieter than you might expect, at least from where I stood, slightly removed. I could judge what happened by the injured being pulled from the epicenter. Street medics tended to head wounds, carefully and methodically checking for evidence of leaking spinal fluid. Their calm demeanors belied an underlying sense of urgency. Hundreds of riot police stood behind the makeshift triage unit, silent in their all-black body armor, batons ready to inflict more pain if deemed necessary.
No Imperial March played in the hot sticky air as the Stormtroopers moved in to begin clearing the intersection. With the exception of some shouted commands and a periodic dispersal order broadcast via LRAD, they simply pressed forward, forcing us back. Their eyes stared through us from behind sealed visors as if we were not real, or as if they were not fully present in the moment.
A photographer took pictures of me filming the scene, streaming it live to the Internet. We exchanged pleasantries and credentials. The police line pressed ever closer. If this were a movie, there would be a melodramatic soundtrack accompanying our slow retreat down Cermak. Instead we moved through a sea of silent tension almost worse than the implied force itself.
We played cat-and-mouse games with columns of riot cops all afternoon. They tried to contain us and direct our movements; we tried to outmaneuver them and get to the convention center. We succeeded, making it to the eight-foot metal barricades three times only to be threatened by the Special Forces guarding the dignitaries meeting beyond. I did a stand-up TV interview at one barricade, telling the reporter that our goal was to be seen and heard by those inside the summit. I was only seen and heard by the soldier who cut the interview short, barking a command to leave the secured area immediately.
Now, hours wearier and sweatier, we have finally gotten ahead of the riot cop formations long enough to head north, back toward downtown. It’s a four-mile trek and we have been marching all day in 90 degree heat. There is no energy left for chanting; signs have mostly been discarded. We just put one foot in front of the other, advancing our small offshoot protest march and its ever-present bike cop escort.
It’s about to get loud again as we meet up with the other marches downtown. We’re about to stop traffic and close down Michigan Avenue. We’re about to sit outside a dinner being held at the Art Institute for the NATO spouses, demanding to know why we weren’t invited to join them. More people are about to get hurt, including my friend Harrison, who will be hit over the head by an overzealous baton for the crime of playing his tambourine in the street. We’re about to end the night with a dance party in the rain, followed by another five-mile march to the jail where they took our friends.
But now, right now, all is quiet. The sun is setting spectacularly over the skyline and we are blocking four lanes of traffic, winding our way back to the heart of the city.
This is the part that never makes it to the movie, or the textbook – how the protesters get back home. These are the spaces in the middle and in between that automatically hit the cutting room floor. This is supposedly the least interesting part of the day.
And yet it is also the most human. After all, the media loves to paint a caricature of us in opposition with the stiffly regimented forces of law and order. They look for the loud, flashy moments and show them in eight-second clips devoid of context. But we are human. We get hungry; we look for a bathroom. We get sweaty and tired and thirsty. If you hit us with a baton, we will bleed – human blood, not protester blood. Yet we press on, because we feel righteous anger and indignation. We eschew personal comfort in order to amplify our message and champion our ideals. We shout our dissent from the pavement to the rooftops, and it echoes back to us through the concrete canyons that have been abandoned by all but the most dedicated this weekend.
This is the hardest part of the protest, when we are tired and alone and one blister away from giving up and finding a train that’s still running. This is the part when I wonder if we made any kind of difference at all. This is when reality sets in, that we face a long road ahead with no express route to the finish line. We will put in the hard work, one step at a time, one day at a time. I have friends by my side and more waiting ahead. This isn’t the end; it’s just the first in a series of memorable adventures.
This is the part that nobody sees but me. This is the true measure of my convictions, because to me it’s not a long, arduous journey back. I enjoy every sweaty, bloody step of the way.
– Rachel Allshiny –
Photo courtesy of Kelly Hayes]]>
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–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 –]]>
Aaron Cynic of Diatribe Media and the Chicagoist (and on our website, this account of #noNATO action) sent us this video last night in which, around 8:30 outside the Art Institute, he gives his audience an update on NATO protests as well as what’s happening in that moment.
View the video here:
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.
Chicago, IL–After 50 hours on the road, and three days without a proper night’s sleep, tiredness was becoming a serious factor. Our ragtag group of activists, occupiers, and livestreamers had gathered in Pershing Square between 3 and 4 AM on the morning of Wednesday, May 16, and most, including us, had foregone sleep the night before in order to make last-minute preparations. The expected 4 AM departure of the three 99% Solidarity-organized and National Nurses United-funded Los Angeles occu-buses had been delayed for two hours while we awaited the arrival of the Bay Area Nine – a heroic group of Oakland and San Francisco occupiers who had traveled down via Greyhound after their direct ride to Chicago had been cancelled at short notice. It was therefore around 6 AM before we finally set off from Downtown LA.
Our journey time had been further extended by two separate cases of overheated-engine syndrome as we convoyed through the Nevada desert, and a minor medical emergency 100+ miles away from the Illinois state line. A few over-extended, but essential, pee and smoke breaks had also impacted our ETA. When we arrived at our final destination, a short walk away from Occupy Chicago’s Convergence Center at around 6 AM on Friday May 19, we were nearly half a day late. But despite the exhaustion, our spirits were for the most part high, boosted by the excitement of what was to come, and by the beauty of the city, which the majority of our group had never visited before.
As one of three designated bus captains, I hung around to make sure everyone was situated. Since the lateness of our arrival meant we’d mostly missed our accommodation opportunities for the night, some of our group decided to join other occupiers who were occupying Lake Michigan’s beach, some headed off to meet with friends, and the rest followed representatives from Occupy Chicago, who had kindly greeted us with an offer of breakfast, which would be served was soon as their Convergence Center opened at 8:30 AM.
With photos to edit and upload, and words such as these to file, I headed to a motel room which was serving as 99% Solidarity’s temporary base. Having been starved of a reliable internet connection for the past two days, there was much to catch up on, and very little time, since the march leading up to the NNU organized People’s G8 / Robin Hood Tax Rally was scheduled to star at 11 AM.
Following a shower, and a frenzy of emails, uploads, and social media posts, I grabbed a much-needed Starbucks, a liquid breakfast/boost being all I had time for. (Unfortunately, sometimes, corporate crack is unavoidable – and this was one of those occasions!) I met up with a core group of occupiers and activists at Michigan and Madison, and headed over to Daley Plaza with them.
As we made our way down E Washington, we admired the barricades which the Chicago Police Department had kindly laid out on either side of the street to make out of town occupiers feel right at home. Given the much-publicized increased police presence, which involved importing officers from several other states, the atmosphere was surprisingly relaxed. When a group of CPD officers wearing full-on riot helmets cycled past on bikes, at this juncture, quite frankly the sight was more ridiculous than threatening. But as we closed in on Daley Plaza, the police presence was far less frivolous.
It was heartening to see an impressively large crowd had turned out to support the nurses and their call for a Robin Hood Tax. These overworked and underpaid group of individuals are on the frontlines of the war against the working and middle class, and the breakdown of our economy is particularly salient to those who staff our emergency rooms. There is therefore a natural affinity between the goals of Occupy and the nurses union, who were among the first of the traditional labor organizations to support the fledgling alternative grassroots activist movement.
Another stalwart supporter of the Occupy movement is Tom Morello, who performed at the rally once the talk was done. He gleefully taunted Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had attempted to silence the Rage Against the Machine guitarist by pulling the NNU’s permit after they announced he was scheduled to perform. The resulting public outcry having forced Emanuel to relent.
“I know damn well I’m welcome in Chicago” Morello said to the cheering and appreciative crowd. “The mayor’s office tried to shut this whole thing down…How ridiculous for the mayor’s office to think I would do anything to hurt Chicago? Chicago is my favorite city on the whole world.”
After Morello’s perfectly pitched mix of rhetoric and rebel songs, the rally dissipated. The nurses took to their buses, occupiers took to the streets, and, after another burst of essential online activity, this activist/journalist voted for sleep.
Visit the gallery at SuicideGirls.com for oodles more images from the event.
To keep tabs on the progress of the Chicago bus trip and actions, subscribe to the 99% Solidarity media Twitter list and check in with us via the following livestreams:
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.]]>