Friday, Jan 27, 2012, 3:20 pm
Adbusters’ Call for Chicago Occupation Rankles Some in Movement
AdBusters, the Vancouver-based culture jamming magazine, is often credited with having put out the initial call for Occupy Wall Street. Therefore, its latest campaign, to Occupy Chicago for the month of May, has generated considerable publicity. It appears, though, that the magazine summoned occupiers from around the world without consulting groups already making plans.
The call, titled “Tactical Briefing #25: Showdown in Chicago,” promises that “On May 1, 50,000 people from all over the world will flock to Chicago, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and #OCCUPYCHICAGO for a month. With a bit of luck, we’ll pull off the biggest multinational occupation of a summit meeting the world has ever seen.”
There is already an “#OCCUPYCHICAGO” in existence, and it has been busy planning a “Chicago Spring.” Serena Himmelfarb of Occupy Chicago indicated by e-mail that the Chicago Spring planning has already consisted of “working with national organizations to coordinate events such as teach-ins performances and marches,” adding that the proposal for Chicago Spring had passed the GA in December. AdBusters did not consult Occupy Chicago ahead of the Tactical Briefing.
The Tactical Briefing targets the G8 and NATO summit being held in Chicago on May 15th-21st: “And when the G8 and NATO meet behind closed doors on May 19, we’ll be ready with our demands: a Robin Hood Tax … a ban on high frequency ‘flash’ trading … a binding climate change accord … a three strikes and you’re out law for corporate criminals … an all out initiative for a nuclear-free Middle East … whatever we decide in our general assemblies and in our global internet brainstorm—we the people will set the agenda for the next few years and demand our leaders carry it out.”
As with the #OCCUPYCHICAGO initiative, there are already groups working to organize a mass action around the summit, united under the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda (CANG8). Joe Iosbaker, a spokesman for the coalition, told In These Times that he had applied for permits on the morning of June 23, the day after President Obama’s speech announcing the summit:
“It’s the 1% of the world coming here. We’ve known all along that the majority of the people of this city are suffering because of the policies, austerity and war spending that these people are responsible for. AdBusters has joined the call.”
AdBusters did not, however, consult Iosbaker or his associates.
This organizing effort was widely acknowledged not least by the Chicago City Council, who just over a week ago “overwhelmingly approved two ordinances Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced to crack down on protests expected during the upcoming NATO and G8 summits in the city.” The ordinances increase permit fees and fines for violations of parade rules, allow the Chicago police chief to pull in security help from out of state and keep public parks closed longer than usual.
Iosbaker was there with a broad coalition of organizations – labor, faith, community, peace and immigration groups fighting Emanuel’s restrictions, some of which were stricken from the final legislation as a result. CANG8 is working on a rally and march, but faces heavy official intimidation. “Because this is a national special security event,” says Iosbaker, “the Secret Service could revoke our permit by declaring security perimeters, not only at the event space where they’ll hold the summit, but also the hotels where the major players are staying and even places where they’ll have parties.”
The whole thing calls to mind the anti-protest violence wrought by police at Chicago’s 1968 Democratic National Convention, a photograph from which AdBusters prominently displayed in its call. The public responses of Occupy Chicago and the Coalition Against NATO/G8 have been muted.
The Guardian reported that “A spokesman for Occupy Chicago welcomed the call, and said it would be publicising it as part of its #ChicagoSpring campaign, which would include protesting at Nato and G8. Joshua Kaunert of Occupy Chicago said: ‘Occupy Chicago has a lot of work to do both prior to and after these summits: Mayor 1% has turned peaceful protest and passive resistance in Chicago into a criminal act, violating our First Amendment rights. We are still in the planning stages for all of our spring actions, but we welcome all who want to speak out against the famine and war forced on the world by the G8 and Nato to join us in the streets of Chicago.’”
In an e-mail, Occupy Chicago issued the same statement verbatim as Kaunert, noting additionally that “At this time, this is the ONLY (sic) statement that we are releasing. We aren't taking any interviews until after the GA tonight.”
While the reaction has officially been one of gratitude that AdBusters’ considerable brand is helping publicize an initiative already in planning, the discussion among some Occupy Chicago activists on the internet in response to the call has not all been as polite. Himmelfarb (@Himmelhoney) tweeted, “Lots of heated opinions bout this.” @SoulByMax tweeted, “basically they're horrible ‘allies’ and they want the police to riot on us. Its unbelievable.” Josh (@ThatEgyGuy) tweeted, “dialogue would have been nice. even acknowledgment.” @Mikenreich tweeted that he’d thought “wow obviously they haven't spoken with ANYONE in the movement.”
A poster on an Occupy Chicago forum asked, “Does anyone know if they contacted any other groups in Chicago, like CAN G8?” and registered an objection to AdBusters’ proclamation that this would be “in the tradition of the Chicago 7,” quoting Jerry Rubin as saying “Anyone who calls us the Chicago Seven is a racist. Because you're discrediting Bobby Seale. You can call us the Chicago Eight, but really we're the Chicago Ten, because our two lawyers went down with us.”
AdBusters and its co-founder, Kalle Lasn, have been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker and Rolling Stone, among other outfits, in connection with its July, 2011 call for Occupy Wall Street.
AdBusters did not reply to an e-mail requesting comment. A spokesperson said that the organization is swamped with media requests and going through them as quickly as possible.
Friday night’s Occupy Chicago General Assembly did not generate consensus to livestream.
J.A. Myerson is an independent journalist who blogs at jamyerson.com and who currently works with the Media and Labor Outreach Committees at Occupy Wall Street.