#OccupyChi, The Energy, The Challenges and The Saboteur

by , posted on Thursday, October 6th, 2011 at 9:26 am

So I went to Occupy Chicago yesterday. My company has an office just about a few blocks from what Occupy Chicago is referring to as HQ (Outside the Chicago Board of Trade and the Fed on Jackson and LaSalle), so I worked there yesterday instead of in my standard office, making it easier for me to join them that evening. I could barely focus on work that day, I was so excited.

I spent the bulk of my work day squeezing work in between periods of checking the Occupy Wall St and Chicago Facebooks and websites. It was maddening to try to follow the very sporadic and uninformative updates from Occupy Chicago. There was no information on where they were, how many they were or what they were doing for most of the day. I saw in the comments a woman say there were only 4 people who were there when she drove past.

I was worried I was wasting my time.

Then I saw this on these very same interwebs.

I decided standing up to the 1 percent (those fuckers) would never be a waste of time. So I went (and left work an hour earlier than I honestly should have) and don’t regret a moment of it.

So here is my first hand perspective and play by play, including my account of the saboteur, pics, some helpful links, etc.

So I arrive at Jackson and LaSalle and there are about 100 (ish) people on the corners. It is a T intersection and they are spread out along the T. Energy was at about a medium. Some people were being very quiet and reserved and taking pictures. Some were being very vocal, but polite.

I asked a few people if they knew anyone on the media team and I finally found someone who did. I approached the woman who had been pointed out to me. She was about 25 t0 30 years old, and a tiny little thing to be honest. Very direct, very open. I liked her immediately. We discussed the trials of getting the updates out there, and how difficult it is to follow online. I let her know that I can be there on Wednesdays and can bring a mifi along each time, which she was very excited about. I also turned on the mobile hotspot for my phone, but ended up turning it off to save battery in the end.

Another challenge they are having is the inability to camp, as they do in NYC. For now, a priest has agreed to allow them to store their gear in his church, which they are calling the Safe House, as the police won’t let them keep much with them on the street.

I talked to a few people, snapped some pictures, bummed around and became one of the quiet and reserved crowd for a bit.
And then we marched and that changed everything.
The march left with about 125 people (again, ish) and within blocks energy was high and people were feeling great. I grabbed some fliers and passed them out to people I saw. People were honking and cheering and jumping in and joining us. Cabbies were all honking and I later learned that they had earlier voiced solidarity with the Occupy Movement, which I didn’t know at the time.

We made special stops at the banks along our way.
The sound of hundreds of voices reverberating chants like “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” and the drums and the footsteps raining down on you from the very window behind which the criminals hide is an awe inspiring auditory experience. It was really just an empowering feeling.

It was at this high point in the march that things almost turned to disaster, as this is where we picked up our saboteur. I saw the entire incident before my very eyes and it almost turned very ugly.

As our march approached, a man jumped in from the other side of the street. His face was covered in a red bandana and he was wearing all black. He marched for about ten paces and then smashed a window with a hammer and ran. The crowd started yelling “SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME” and pointing him out as he tried to make his way through us all.

He got to the front and two men at the front half tackled him to stop him. They were definitely, without question, angry. I started yelling “DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN. DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN,” and pointing. The folks around me surged forward and pulled our two brothers off of the saboteur, who ran again. People milled. There was confusion. Then another group of young men broke off from the march to chase the saboteur. I again yelled “DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN,” and pointed and it was not effective at all. A man turned to me and said “Why are you defending that fucker?!” and his voice had a note of betrayal that made me so sad. This young man was full of rage and helplessness at a system that has set him up in the serf class, and here’s this five foot tall curly haired freak telling him NOT to chase down someone he sees as the Enemy.

I responded “because the second there is violence is the second this is over.” The I raised my voice and I shouted “Whose streets?!” Heads turned in my direction, away from the scuffle where the saboteur was trying to get on a bicycle, and hundreds of voices shouted back “OUR STEETS!” I yelled “Whose streets?!” again and started walking forward. Everyone started moving again and the young men had no choice but to rejoin the march or be left behind.

So we marched. And we had that street. It was ours and nobody was taking it from us. I saw a CTA worker calling it in. We WERE disrupting transit, no question, so I couldn’t blame him for it. After a few blocks I realized that I was at the very front, leading hundreds of people down the Chicago streets and I have no sense of direction and no idea where I am going. I fall back and turn to the first person who catches up to me and whisper “I have no idea where the fuck we are.” She looks at me and whispers back “Shit, neither do I!” Thankfully the guy with her did and he took over. I fell back, feeling rather proud of myself I admit.
A few minutes after that a police officer rode up on his bike and asked us to get on the sidewalk. He asked very politely, almost pleadingly, and we complied. From there he rode with us for the entirety of our march, stopping traffic at all the crossroads. I did notice a few minutes after he asked us to move to the sidewalk, there was a very heavy police presence on the side streets. I noted vans, cars, bikes, cops on foot. I heavily suspect this cop did us a favor purposely by asking us to move to the sidewalk before they arrived with their vans, but I have nothing other than my own observations to support that.

We converged on a news camera that seemed to be doing some piece on a sculpture. The cameraman and reporter decided we were a bigger story and started filming.
I took this moment to approach the police officer on his bike and say “Thank you.” He responded with “That’s what I am here for.” I turned to go and then turned back and said “You realize you are part of the 99 percent too, right?”

He said “Yeah. OH YEAH.” I grinned and left. Here is a shot of that same cop, listening at the GA later that evening with a coworker who joined him.

From there we marched back to HQ and there was a crowd of people waiting. I would say by now there were at least 250 people at Occupy Chicago. More cars driving by honking. The drums, the chanting, the dancing, the signs. The cowards running as fast in and out of the doors of the Board of Trade as possible.

All in all, it was great.

Some notes for the Occupy Chicago folks. I will be down there on Wednesdays with my mifi. We can connect five devices to it at once. I encourage you to request that people bring these if they have them.

At the GA, the window-breaking was thoroughly addressed and everyone agreed anyone who did any such thing was NOT part of their group. I am not sure many people realized that this man jumped in and marched about ten paces, smashed the window and ran. I hear now that he has stated that he is with us but thinks we need to step it up a notch regarding violence. I think that still makes him a saboteur, no matter what side he is on.

What was not addressed was the crowd reaction to the window being broken. Yelling SHAME SHAME SHAME was the right thing to do. Tackling the man was most certainly not. I would love to see the GA discuss how important it is that we do not commit violence, even when it is perpetrated against us or in our names by another.
The food situation at Occupy Chicago is not good. I will be spending some time today trying to find a local pizza and sandwich type place that will bring deliveries to HQ. I will post information as I get it.
What can you do?

You can like the OccupyWallSt and OccupyChi facebooks. You can share the livestream page on your facebook. You can tweet, post and like everything anything related to the movement.

You can spread it by word of mouth! I did this all evening, told everyone I met. A number of people wrote down the movement’s website. Share this website through any means you can.

And the number one thing I think we can all do is realize that regardless of the methods of this movement, the people involved, how silly it all might seem to those of us who have been beaten down for years into thinking that there is no changing the world … this is our last shot.</strong> This thing is worldwide. This is happening. And it is happening here and now and they are not going to stop. And we better hope they don’t because if something this big and this people powered gets shut down I don’t see it happening again in my lifetime.

So if you hate the oligarchs, hate the system, hate being a serf, now is your moment. Stand up.

Cross-posted to Daily Kos


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One Response to “#OccupyChi, The Energy, The Challenges and The Saboteur”

  1. John Laesch says:

    Thanks for the post. I am going to try to make it down there on Saturday. I am working in Chicago also this week.

    I expected more signs. We all have something to say, but just being there says enough.

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