Revolution #251, November 27, 2011

Update - Chicago Occupy

Chicago, November 18—More than 2,000 people took the streets in Chicago on the November 17 anniversary marking two months of the Occupy Wall Street movement. This was the largest protest since the City came down with massive arrests a month ago.

It began with an afternoon rally and march organized by Stand Up! Chicago, a coalition of community and labor organizations, protesting for jobs and against city budget cuts. The demonstration marched to and occupied a bridge over the Chicago River, blocking traffic in and out of the Loop. The mood was exuberant as people danced and drummed while people staged a sit-in in the middle of the bridge. Forty-six people were arrested. Things were just getting started.

Protesters took the street marching into the heart of the financial district. The protest in the street was a magnet as numbers swelled. This was the most diverse outpouring of people connected with the Occupy movement that has yet taken place in Chicago. There were contingents from inner-city neighborhoods, union contingents including teachers and nurses, public transit workers, youth and students including groups from high schools, as well as many older people. There were significant numbers of Black and Latino people. Hundreds of faces looked out the high-rise office building windows. One popular chant expressing the mood was “We are unstoppable, another world is possible!”

The march went down to LaSalle and Jackson, the site where Occupy Chicago began and has maintained a permanent presence for almost two months. This highly determined protest has faced repeated police harassment including arrests, tickets, confiscation of food and drums and blankets, along with the ever-constant order to “keep moving.” Attempts to move from LaSalle and Jackson to establish an encampment in Grant Park were met with 300 arrests by the city in October. But today the now notorious intersection—surrounded by the Board of Trade, the Federal Reserve and a Bank of America—was shut down by a mass die-in organized “to stand in solidarity with all of the Occupations around the country facing evictions, repression, and police violence.” Enormous banners saying “The 1% is Killing Us” and “We Are the 99%” took over the intersection. A statement was read saying, “We have remained silent and let them condemn and execute the poor, the working, and the middle class, the 99%... We can no longer be bystanders. It's time we raise our voices in testimony against the criminals that condemn them! We MUST resist austerity, rebuild the economy, and RECLAIM OUR DEMOCRACY. It's time we stand with these deceased, with EACH OTHER, TOGETHER.”

After a symbolic surrounding of the Board of Trade, people took over major downtown streets and marched defiantly and joyously for the next hour. There was a sense of coming together as part of a national/global movement, a sense of coming back in the face of the raids on Zuccotti Park and other Occupy sites as well as in the face of winter’s onset, while gaining new determination and drawing in new numbers including more diverse sections of the “99%.” The response on the sidewalks was electric. Many people cheered, cars honked their horns, and some joined in on the spot.

The days immediately leading up to November 17 had seen a number of significant protests, including a City Hall sit-in protesting the planned shutdown of community mental health clinics. One Occupier spoke angrily about sitting in with a person from a neighborhood who told her flatly, “This means I will die.”

The week began with University of Chicago students and Occupy Chicago organizing to “unwelcome” an appearance on campus by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Students planned to go in and vocally protest Rice and Paulson, defying an email sent to all students by the University Provost and Vice President threatening to punish students who disrupted the event. A statement from the students stated, "War criminals like Rice, and those who pushed our economy to the brink of collapse, like Paulson, should face opposition wherever they go, and be held accountable for their crimes against the people of this country. They should be in jail, not on the lecture circuit." The students sharply exposed the University’s justification that the administration’s threat was defending free inquiry. On the day of the event, the news was released that Rice and Paulson had abruptly cancelled their appearance!

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