In case anyone is living in a hole and doesn’t already know this, NATO is in my lovely town of Chicago this week! And, for us citizens of Chicago, that means that downtown is essentially shut down. There are cops on every street corner. Surveillance helicopters EVERYWHERE. Fighter plane “demonstrations.” Highway and train shut downs. Security searches on suburban trains. Museum and park shutdowns. And essentially life is hardly allowed to go on so that we can try to convince the world that we are a successful and metropolitan city for the ages!
Yes well. That’s special.
The shut downs and 10 millions + dollars spent on security has been related to the Occupy Movement and planned protests for this week.
(Credit to 1070 WINA News Radio)
I will be honest. I am pretty biased here. I’ve been to Occupy Marches and support the spirit of the movement (I differentiate that from the statements and some of the actual behaviors and such of the movement, but I’ll talk about that later.) I’m so glad that a new movement has sprung up that questions and pushes the government, something they have not had to do in a long time.
So, back to what I actually wanted to talk about, which is how the protests have been covered in Chicago, reactions I have heard from those around me, what I’ve heard from other protesters, and what I actually saw while I was down there.
The media coverage and the general population’s reaction go pretty much hand in hand. Everywhere I went, starting in about February/March when things began to fall in place for the NATO Summit, people were talking about how terrible it was going to be, the predicted riots, the shut downs, the arrests, the anarchy. People living along Michigan and near McCormick Place were encouraged to leave for the week. They expected the CTA to be, I don’t know, bombed or something. Up to and during the Summit, the protesters were made to be feared.
-I’ll stop to make yet another aside. I know, I’m sorry, this is how my mind works; it’s disorganized. I have to acknowledge Chicago’s rough history with protesters. I’ll point out the Haymarket Riots, 1968 DNC Convention, the Division Street Riots just to point out a few. You get the idea. We really don’t have a good track record.
So, starting Thursday and Friday, when the NATO members and ambassadors and dignitaries and all these other important people were coming to Chicago, along with them came riot police, everyone within three states that was in even barely trained in crowd control, surveillance helicopters, Big Brother Boxes, Paddy Wagons lined up for miles. I hope you’re forming a great picture of all of this. On the other side of all of the cops were thousands of protesters. Hanging out with their signs. Chanting, singing, angry, but excited to be there.
Credit to Time Magazine Newsfeed*
By the end of the day, a few people were arrested and detained. No major calamities or clusterfucks. There are always going to be a few people arrested, whether they deserved it or not. From what I understand, everyone who was detained was let go–I’ll get to the three Bridgeporters who were arrested for “terrorism” *facepalm.
Saturday began with a march on Mayor Rahmmy’s house (I fucking hate him. I will be completely clear on that. No gray area. All hate.) in protest of his massive cuts on Mental Health Care, including shutting down half of the city’s clinics for the most severely disordered. Fuck. What was the logic behind this in the first place? Oh yeah, none ’cause he’s an ass and doesn’t need logic. From what I saw and heard, this went really well. I hope he was there and he was so pissed off! lolz. But no damage done.
From there they kept marching along. They did really look intimidating. Thousands of people marching down the street in protest. Personally, I describe that as beautiful. Not intimidating. A beautiful and perfect picture of thousands of people gathering to communicate their discontent with the status quo. I suppose I understand why that would be intimidating. But still find it inspiring.
(Credit to the Inquirer news)
On Sunday I spent a good chunk of my morning and afternoon at Grant Park checking out the speeches and seeing what all was going on. By this time, I was hearing from just about everyone around me about how terrible the protesters were being and how terrified they all were. I did my best to spread the love and be all “don’t believe everything you hear.” Because the media was exploding some things (I promise I’m getting to the Bridgeport thing!). But when I went, honestly, it was mostly all chill. People were talking, dancing, debating. Partly because this has turned into a bit of a pop culture thing, partly because most people who jump on the protest bandwagon have no idea what they’re talking about and just want to be counter-culture, there were a ton of people who were just talking nonsense. I mean, really, people were at the same time preaching anarchy and socialism and I have to this:
But the people were well meaning despite much idiocy. The overall theme was: fucking government answer our questions, be responsible, check your fucking priorities. Anytime you get more than 2 people together, the message gets muddled. When you get several thousand, the message gets super muddled. I encourage people to look at the big picture of this movement, which is to keep the government in check, use this stage to make a statement that the people are paying attention and demand to be heard.
Like I said, most of the people were under control and happy, openly talking, wanting to be there, and excited to be part of something. There were, of course, people that wanted more. People that thought destruction and aggression were better ways to be organized. Luckily, it looks like (I bit my tongue a bit because it’s not over yet and as I write this it downtown could be exploding.), those people were kept in check. But they let themselves be known. Instead of jeans and t-shirts or hippy clothes, they chose to wear full black pants, hoodies, masks, face coverings. They reminded me of the North Irish during The Troubles in the 70’s. That’s never a good thing. They made a spectacle of not wanting to be photographed (ha, sorry ’bout that) and not wanting people in on what they were doing. They seemed to be looking to make a name for themselves. But people were easily bored by them. I mean, would you rather chat politics with theses people:
Or these people:
(yes, my photos from that day.)
But, it seems that all things are really going okay with the NATO protests. Yes, a few arrests. Yes, some disorder. But, overall, it was a happy experience. Anywhere there is a protest, there will be idiot throwing in half-baked ideologies, violence, and misinformation on level with the mass media. However, it is important that we recognize the real force behind the protests, the need for change and the need for people’s voices to be recognized. So, march on bitches! Tell those fuckers what you think! And take the stage of the world. But, also, put on your best face if you want to be taken seriously.
Ok, so I’m not going to talk about the Bridgeport Case. I’m sleepy. But now you just have something to look forward to later! I hope you’re just dying to hear my pointless rant on that!
**Forgot to Add the best image of the day! For you, amatorium.