Adbusters, the group credited with inspiring the Occupy Wall Street movement, has once again put out a call for tens of thousands of protesters to flock to Chicago in early May and “set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and #OCCUPYCHICAGO for a month,” according to the official statement.
And this time around we’re not going to put up with the kind of police repression that happened during the Democratic National Convention protests in Chicago, 1968 … nor will we abide by any phony restrictions the City of Chicago may want to impose on our first amendment rights. We’ll go there with our heads held high and assemble for a month-long people’s summit … we’ll march and chant and sing and shout and exercise our right to tell our elected representatives what we want … the constitution will be our guide.
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.
Adbusters warns if G8 and NATO leaders ignore Occupy’s demands, protesters will respond with flashmobs, and actions to shut down stock exchanges, campuses, corporate headquarters, and cities across the globe.
The group closes by instructing supporters to “pack your tents, muster up your courage and prepare for a big band in Chicago this Spring.”
Back in September, a small group of activists took up Adbusters’ call to occupy Wall Street, but it quickly became apparent that police wouldn’t permit protesters access to Wall Street itself, so they began setting up their camp at an asphalt park most of us had never heard of at the time called Zuccotti.
No one at the original protest predicted the movement would erupt in such a massive way. The initial turnout was unimpressive (Adbusters had originally called for 20,000 individuals to attend the event, but the actual count was no where near that,) but over the next few weeks, more and more protesters arrived at the camp, which kept growing and sprouting new features: a library, kitchen, queer info centre, day care, etc.
But what Chicago already has in place that New York City in September did not is an established Occupy chapter, Occupy Chicago, in addition to seasoned activism groups familiar with protesting the G8.
Despite this advantage, Occupy faces a formidable opponent in Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who along with the Chicago City Council, has essentially placed the city under lockdown in anticipation of the summits featuring the world’s richest nations.
The council recently voted to approve what is being called the “Sit Down and Shut Up” ordinance, which originally included mandatory $1 million liability insurance for protesters, fines of up to $1,000 for people arrested during a protest, stricter guidelines for obtaining permits, and a heightened police presence in the city.
Faced with an enormous public backlash, City Hall tweaked the proposal, though activists were less than impressed with the new version, and insist Chicago remains a city that places onerous restrictions on protesters. (Andy Thayer and Christine Geovanis from the Coalition Against NATO/G8 wrote a good summary of the ordinances.)
Instead of increasing the penalty for violating a parade permit 20-fold from $50 to $1000 and doubling the maximum penalty from $1000 to $2000 (and keeping in place a maximum jail time penalty of 10 days), the new ordinance set the minimum fine to “only” quadruple to $200.
The reformed version of the legislation still demands bizarre and unworkable requirements, such as organizers providing descriptions of “any sound amplification or other equipment that is on wheels or too large to be carried by one person, and description of the size and dimension of any sign, banner, or other attention-getting device that is too large to be carried by one person, to be used in connection with the parade.”
Under the new ordinance, protesters can apply for a waiver of the $1 million liability insurance for a “large parade,” but it’s up to the Commissioner of Transportation to decide if there is “reasonable proof” to dismiss the fee.
The revised ordinance also leaves in place a massive police presence in Chicago, and Emanuel’s proposal for police deputizing of other “law enforcement” personnel (however he chooses to define that) remains in place, and there is no sun-set clause on this provision.
The Illinois State Crime Commission recently said it is urgently seeking Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans to work security positions for the G8, though the chairman claims this is for private security and they will not be working with the Chicago police.
In a city where this summer a thousand public school teachers were handed their pink slips in a single week, officials are prepared to shell out between $40 million and $65 million in order to host the summits (this may be federally reimbursed down the road,) though Lori Healey, executive director of the host committee, says she can’t provide an exact figure of what the total costs will be.
Officials aren’t ready to “get down to the nitty-gritty and the details,” Healey told the Tribune.
In this new book, longtime organizers and movement educators Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes examine the political lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath, including the convergence of mass protest and mass formations of mutual aid. Let This Radicalize You answers the urgent question: What fuels and sustains activism and organizing when it feels like our worlds are collapsing?
We've partnered with the publisher, Haymarket Books, and 100% of your donation will go towards supporting In These Times.