Editor’s note: This story is part of our coverage of the #noNATO protests in Chicago.
Chicago, IL–Now that I’ve had time to take in everything that occurred during the trip to Chicago and recovered from a nasty virus that came home with me, it’s time to reflect on this amazing event. So much happened during the actions from 5/17 to 5/21 that it is difficult at first to know what to write about. From the moment we stepped on the bus to the moment we returned there was an overflow of exploits and encounters. We all need to recognize the importance of our efforts there and, more importantly, ponder how these efforts relate to the hard work ahead of us. There has been ample documentation of the events and actions, so this is a time for a personal touch, as well as to reflect on the bigger picture.
I would judge the gathering in Chicago a success, with some qualifications. It was the largest gathering of its kind. Occupiers from all over the country came together, worked with other organizations, and succeeded in staging numerous actions which showed that the Occupy movement is very much alive. It wasn’t a cakewalk; there were many difficulties during the trip, and one thing that really moved me was the incredible fortitude and resilience shown by the occupiers, who overcame the obstacles and stayed focused on the mission. The efforts of Occupy Chicago deserve special recognition. They worked incredibly hard on dealing with the needs of the 800 occupiers that came flooding into their city. Such dedication serves as a hallmark of what our movement can be. The churches and other groups that provided lodging and services also deserve our thanks.
None of this would have happened without the support of the National Nurses United. This union provided more than just money, and their commitment and support of the Occupy movement was courageous. I worked closely with members of NNU, and (trust me) this was a complex and arduous endeavor. The nurses took a chance in backing us because they believe in the goals we are all pursuing. An important element of this venture was the cooperation that existed between Occupy and the NNU (as well as other groups.) It showed that Occupy can work with other entities without being co-opted or losing its unique identity. Indeed, at our best, it is our message and energy that appeals to others. More than a few nurses asked me and other occupiers about participating in further actions.
The first large event was the NNU rally on 5/18. Attended by thousands, it served as a positive, festive starting point for the events which followed. The main focus was on the Robin Hood tax: a tax on speculative financial transactions that will get those corporate entities which caused the financial crisis to finally pay up. This tax has worldwide support. It is not an ultimate solution to our grievances, but could act as an important step in taking our world back from the Neo-liberal elite. However, there was more to the rally than supporting the Robin Hood tax: it was a gathering of many people from diverse groups and backgrounds who came to demand social and economic justice, and an end to the tyranny of the 1%. The sea of colorful bobbing signs protesting all the things we’re pissed off about was a beautiful sight.
As the rally was ending Occupy took the streets of downtown Chicago with a wildcat march. It was a feisty action with several thousand participants, yet was not destructive or erratic, and many people on the streets showed their support. The march ended at the Michigan Street Bridge as a line of cops blocked the way and used their old school wooden billy clubs to emphasize the point. Perhaps they were angry because an occupier had just ripped down a NATO banner from one of the pylons abutting the bridge. I thought that was the highlight of the day. As the occupiers walked away they chanted “We’ll be back,” and we were.
– Stuart Leonard –