Sunday May 20th 2012
We woke up around 9am the next morning and six of us met with three to four dozen other student protestors from CACHE (Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education) at Jackson and La Salle and we marched strong and loud through the streets to the rally at Grant Park with a giant black ball with 1,000,000,000,000 written on it in order to represent the sum of our collective debt to society in exchange for insolently daring to become smarter. The rally at Grant Park was enormous, I wandered around sending pictures of giant puppets to our own Secrete People’s Puppet Lair in NYC. Speakers from activist groups from the area and from all over the world were speaking. Lines to the water stations and kitchen were huge given the heat. I finally caught up with Nicole and John and met Rachel face to face for the first time during a meeting mostly of OWS folk from New York who were talking tactical before the march.
We caught up to the front of the march together and we popped a few of the party poppers we had been sneaking past cops. We stopped popping them off during a march after one of the Veterans at the front asked us to stop out of respect for the Post Traumatic Stress many of them had incurred. I didn’t pop anymore until after someone else in the crowd of 70,000 people on that march popped theirs after listening to those veterans denounce the war on terror with words about dead children, mothers and fathers, sexual assaults, post traumatic disorders, suicides, oil, lies and shame before throwing their medals away one by one.
It was a heavy ritual and I felt a need to get out of the crowd and get hydrated as quickly as possible once it had ended. We worked our way out of the crowd west from the march and saw huge lines of heavily black armored riot police brandishing clubs, moving in the direction we had just come given that the rally was scheduled to end at 4pm. Nicole, John and myself heard reports the police where using Long-range acoustic sound cannons on black block protestors while we were guzzling Gatorade in order to replenish electrolytes and avoid heat exhaustion.
We weren’t quite sure where we should go after we finished eating some food, but we found Lucas, Emmillio, Vanessa, Christina, Stephanie, and more and more with every block we walked until we eventually wound up on Michigan Ave. We collectively decided to begin chanting around the time 25 of us had started heading toward congress and Michigan together. The sidewalks on Michigan avenue were still large enough to accommodate us at that point, but we were obliged to take Michigan Ave. once our impromptu march had snowballed into over 50. We were greeted by hundreds of occupiers who had been under the statues on Congress and Michigan. I popped the last two party poppers I had brought with me as we tore ass down congress and began marching wildly through the car filled streets of downtown Chicago.
I shared looks of amazement, wonder and happiness, words of disbelief and reassurance and congratulatory embraces with Lucas, Nicole, John, Vanessa, Emillio and others. We had begun our march as a handful, watched grow into hundreds and felt the fragile distinction between making something happen and being a part of the thing that happened to be happening completely disappear in the process. It was exhilarating, empowering and liberating. I kept running into friends on the march. I ran into @missarahnicole a live tweeter I met through Tim and Tim himself who was confirmed that he was as exhausted as he looked after his raid much earlier that morning. He picked up a small scarf-sized red and black anarcho-syndicalism flag someone had dropped in the streets. I’m not sure why he picked it up given that he handed it right off to me since he didn’t want anyone potentially using it to attribute any ideological leaning toward himself. I took the flag and tied it to my pandeiro which I’d been playing to the bone of my right thumb on every march, not that I thought Tim’s concerns were terribly salient.
The march seemed to be going anywhere and everywhere. Lucas had some juice left in his phone and found out as had a few others that NATO leaders where gathered at the Art Institute on Michigan Ave. I was at the head of the march with Julian and others though I didn’t recognize trying to steer it in that direction. I looked officers in the eye and told them that it was nothing personal but we had to protest the scum they were protecting and that we should all go drink cold beer together like civilized people after finishing up for the evening; some of them rolled eyes, others winked with respect.
The head of the march kept moving south on Michigan past the Art Institute. A large portion of the march including John and Nicole had stayed at the Art Institute and I wish I had as well. We wound up hanging a right down Jackson I believe, then began marching up Wabash when a group of police shielded up in a circle behind their bicycles which they used to push protestors away after a cop fell or they took a protestor down, I couldn’t quite tell. I had been walking backwards along with the march away from the Greek Phalanx-like formation of Bike cops when the heavily black armored riot police quickly and eagerly swarmed in around them shoving protestors away with heavily notched wooden batons.
I was smiling and playing my pandeiro when a riot cop looked me directly in the eye. I watched his lips mouth ‘mother fucker’ as he advanced on me. I turned and ran in the direction I had already been moving without even thinking to bother about getting his badge info or evidence with my phone. I ran fast, but all avenues of escape were blocked by the backs of other fleeing protestors which was all I could see as I felt my head rattle beneath three strikes from the riot cop’s baton on top of my head. I felt another blow glance off my leg as I managed to get around the other protestors. It definitely hurt a bit in spite of the adrenaline coursing through me. I took my black fedora off and felt for damage with my right hand. My finger slipped inside my head just a little bit and my hand came away covered in blood which was running down my bare neck, back and chest. Thankfully I had already taken off my shirt from the heat and drizzling humidity which was mingling with my sweat. I had spent five years training to respond to trauma such as this as a lifeguard and I realized that I was still conscious, mobile, not to mention still rational given that I was yelling for a medic fully aware that I had no way of safely knowing on my own weather or not chunks of skull might puncture my brain later that evening.
Shon, Becca and Captain got to me. They told the cameras to get back but I said it was ok for them to shoot and film. The medics took control and Becca said she could see large cut and bruise but no fractures when she checked and palpated the wound after she checked my vitals. She told me I should still get a CT scan even though she didn’t suspect any serious lasting head trauma. She and Shon bandaged me up and told me to go to a hospital for stitches. They went back into the fray and Captain walked with myself and person or two with cameras who interviewed me while walked in the direction of Northwestern Hospital.
Captain got pissed off when a group of cops in khakis told us we couldn’t continue walking north up State Street. One of them cringed at the bandage on my head and the blood drying on my bare neck, chest and back and said he was sorry about it but that we couldn’t pass. Captain asked him how the hell he was supposed to get me to the hospital. One of the cops said he’d get us an ambulance which I doubt they would’ve paid for but they suddenly received orders to leave the intersection. They marched off and we continued towards the hospital a few more blocks.
I smoked some more of my cigar, Captain said it would help thin the blood and staunch the flow a bit more. I occasionally said hi to a few gawkers on the street while I used what little power I had left in my phone to text to my friends and get a few status updates out. I decided we should hail a cab rather than continue to wonder around looking for a bus. Captain and another guy with us ran ahead and found a cab while I pulled a shirt over the dried blood covering my torso. We were only about $8 dollars away from the hospital. Captain and his company took off in the cab back toward the action while I checked myself into the emergency room.
I was prepared for a long wait but the waiting room was virtually empty except for another protestor who’d apparently been injured before me but the nurses and docs were ready to examine me before I even had a chance to use the restroom. They let me use their phone to call the number I had for the Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild as well as the number of another Lawyer whose card I had been given right after the medics checked me out. A nurse wheeled me into a room for a CT scan and back into the ER. Two cops from a different division came in to talk to me. One of them asked if I’d been hit with a stick like the one he had begun holding over and if I knew which end I’d been hit with after I told them what happened. He put it away as we got down to the seemingly more crucial questions from their POV about what I had been doing to deserve the whacks and more importantly how I felt about police in general rather than what had actually just happened.
I told them both that I thought that the majority of cops were just people who had it almost as bad as we did and who were doing a shitty, thankless job, but that there were clearly a minority of sadists who enjoyed the brutality. One of them said that what I had said was absolutely true. I told them I thought the sadistic officers tended to be the higher ranking ones as well. The other cop told me it was all about connections and he started talking about some corrupt local politician who’s staff consisted of 80% illegal immigrant labor as if that was more important than anything I had been protesting and also as if we were on the same side. They didn’t have anything to say about my incident and didn’t have any advice to give as to what I should do about contacting lawyers or police reports.
A nurse came in and cleaned the gash on my head with cold water and hydrogen peroxide, she talked about some other “cool” things she had seen including a guy who had turned his scalp into a toupee from a motorcycle accident. Another nurse came in to make copies of my health insurance card. Another guy in scrubs gave me a quick shot of tetanus vaccine in my arm after she finished and left. Another guy in a white coat who had been some sort of bio chemical engineer before working in the ER asked me why I was out there as he began numbing the wounded area on my head before stapling it back together. I’m never sure where to begin whenever anyone asks me that question but he wanted to know what I was hoping to achieve out of this, he asked me…after I told him I thought the conversation was interesting and that I didn’t mind having it while he stapled my scalp back together…what my one demand would’ve been.
I told him I was glad we never made demands, forgot about the whole occupation on Europa thing, and told him I thought marijuana legalization could change society the fastest by ending the drug wars with Mexico, lead to reform in prisons and law enforcement, help ease the pain of all sorts of medical maladies while simultaneously cutting into the profits of a corrupt pharmaceutical industry, put America’s economy back to work by producing all sorts of things out of industrial grade hemp including bio-diesel fuels thereby also addressing the climate crisis. He snickered when I told him I believed that smoking pot would literally solve all of our problems, but disagreed that bio-diesel produced from hemp would help lower greenhouse temperatures since it was still a combustible. He went on to talk about how he thought rapid revolutionary changes typically caused more problems than they solved and that he thought revolutions were best when more gradual.
Naturally I asked him for medicinal marijuana for my headache after he finished the conversation and putting the staples into the star-shaped gash in my head. He reminded me that it wasn’t yet legal in Illinois and gave me some paper work instead before I left the hospital. I caught a cab back to my host’s place on the north side. My phone had regained a bit of juice and I texted my host and Lucas who told me they would be out doing jail support for a while longer.
I was locked out of the place we were staying, basically ok but too exhausted, covered in blood, and a bit chilly. I began to brood mean thoughts as I sat on the porch waiting for my friends to return. I knew that I could either sit on that porch and let that moment turn into another reason for me to hate the world along with everyone in it or I could go to a bar and try to talk to women. I wisely opted for the later, figuring that the blood would serve as a good a reason as any for someone to listen to a genuinely crazy story.
The bartender at a place a few blocks away asked me what happened after he took my order and put the first pint of beer in front of me. A woman who happened to be listening to my story did in fact invite me to join her and her friends who were playing cards and pool in the back. I told her I’d come hang out after I finished my burger and a conversation with another local guy who worked at a coffee shop around the area. He swung by the pool game I’d started with the girls in back to buy me a shot and shake my hand. I was overwhelmed with gratitude to find that a plastic bag with a bit of “medicine” for my headache had magically appeared seemingly by magic into the palm of my hand. I bought him a shot, and started to finish up my game with the girls since Lucas and our hosts had returned. We all needed to quickly debrief and get some rest. It was all good though because I think the blood and the story was all a bit too serious for them to take once we started hanging. The only guy who was hanging with them wanted to play devil’s advocate about why I was protesting NATO not that he didn’t support the protests, but I was in no mood to talk about it. The whole reason I had gone out to socialize was precisely to stop thinking about it.
The game soon ended and I sent my friend from the local coffee shop a friend request on Facebook before I got back to James’ place and filled everyone in on my ordeal. Lucas told me I had missed some good moments while I was in the hospital. Protestors had identified an undercover cop and started shouting “cop, cop, cop” at him until he was escorted out of the march by medics trying to look as if he didn’t know what the crowd was talking about and also as if he wasn’t afraid. I had also missed a mass dance party and group hug in the rain in front of the Art Institute after the march had ended.