CHICAGO, IL – You may have heard the news: a small, friendly neighborhood organization known as NATO is holding a summit in our city. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind it if you stopped by to welcome them to town. I know I’ll be there to say hi – it’s the neighborly thing to do.
We’ve been discussing the NATO/G8 protests since the inception of Occupy Chicago, and it feels kind of surreal that the week is finally upon us. In just 8 months we’ve grown from a ragtag bunch gathering in the financial district to a group capable of hosting a two-day event for hundreds of participants that drew media attention from every outlet. Hell, someone working for the government was so concerned about Occupy’s influence and participation in the protests that the G8 summit was moved to a secluded military encampment. One summit down, one to go. Imagine what we can accomplish in another 8 months and beyond.
In response to the elite group of appointed (not elected) officials meeting in our city to plan global military actions that will cost the lives of untold thousands, we organized a summit of our own. The People’s Summit (May 12-13) sought to explore issues we face both globally and locally while upholding Occupy Chicago’s core values of transparency, horizontalism, direct democracy, non-violence, and non-partisanship. The schedule was full of speeches, panels, teach-ins, and trainings – as well as food, entertainment, and general good cheer. The Summit was held in the converted warehouse at 500 W Cermak where we have been renting space since January and included services such as catering via Food Not Bombs, child care, and after-hours live music.
I missed the first day of the People’s Summit, but the reports I heard kept me eager to attend on Sunday. It was incredible to see the halls full of people engaged in activism and hear the impassioned and intelligent conversations taking place. As one of the active organizers in Occupy Chicago, I didn’t attend any specific set of events throughout the day. Instead, I popped in and out of various panels and discussions to get a sense of how they were going and what needed to be done to facilitate a smoother ride. I heard bits and pieces of discussions on Syria, Afghanistan, economic justice, workers’ resistance and more. Most rooms were close to capacity, some standing room only.
This panel-hopping allowed me to get an overall sense of the atmosphere and energy at the Summit, and can I say: WOW. It’s powerful to see so many people coming together to discuss problems and solutions, dreams and goals, ideas and actions. As important as it is to be seen in the streets airing our grievances, the movement’s lasting power will come from our ability to sit down to learn from one another and share our resources to create a better world. This is only the beginning, but from what I saw this weekend, we’re off to an excellent start.
As the night wound down with a final workshop by one of our star NLG lawyers on how to (peacefully) disarm a police officer, I joined members of the Arts & Recreation committee who were working on banners for our upcoming week of action. Luckily they are more talented than I am when it comes to drawing designs out, but I helped put down some paint and kept them company. Lying across the floor with a fresh sunburn (thanks to an outdoor press liaison training), filling in bubble letters on canvas, I felt at home. Occupy people are my people – an extended family if you will. And I think we should have them over to visit more often.
Thanks to everyone who joined us in solidarity from out of town, and to all the Chicagoans who have put in countless hours of work to make this People’s Summit happen. I’ll see you in the streets.
Editor’s Note: You can read more #noNATO coverage on Occupied Stories by clicking here.