Keeping the location a secret until the march around the loop began, the Occupy Chicago movement set up camp in the Congress Plaza Gardens last night, placing their signs on the dozen tents they set up so that they would be protected as free speech.
Police sliced up one of those tents with a knife and brought in a CTA bus to transfer the arrested to stations. The rally of hundreds in the plaza dwindled to the people who chose to stay and face arrest.
The word “IDEAS” flashed in the background on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield building. “The Bowman,” a Native American equestrian statue towered over the plaza as four mounted police officers began to clear the sidewalk in preparation for arrests.
Supporters who were forced to move across the street alternately chanted “CPD is the 99 percent,” and “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?”
A black limo stopped at a red light on Congress and Michigan and rolled down its window. The white haired man in the back seat held up a single finger, indicating to the Occupy Chicago protesters on the sidewalk that he is part of the 1%.
Margo, a Chicago Public School high school teacher who declined to give her last name, said that she had been to “Occupy” gatherings in Washington DC. As mounted police began showing up and officers flanked the encampment, she waited to see what would happen, ready to be arrested.
“I owe it to my students,” she said, adding that she hoped this movement would bring about a “real change.”
The ordinance protesters were violating prohibited them from being in the plaza past 11 p.m.
Members of the National Lawyer’s Guild instructed protesters on how to handle arrest, telling them not to resist so they could avoid escalation and serious charges. Many in the crowd wrote the guild’s number on their bodies in permanent marker.
“As you can see, they’re pulling some smart strategies, with the lawyers and phones and cameras, making sure no wrongdoing goes on,” said Tarik Estrada, a student in sociology at Wright College.
He is working a minimum wage job while he attends school full-time and said that although he could not afford to be arrested at the event, he would be bringing food to the Occupy tents.
Members of various community organizations and unions took to the people’s microphone at various points during the rally. Teachers, steelworkers, engineers, all announced their solidarity with Occupy Chicago.
Stephen Winz of the International Union of Operating Engineers said in an interview that he was disgusted by the recent announcement that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was considering renovating Wrigley Field using taxpayer money.
He said it wasn’t right that private companies use taxpayer money to fix up their properties, even if it was for the Chicago Cubs.
“I’m sure Ricketts has enough money of his own,” he said, referring to Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Chicago Cubs and Chief Executive Officer for Incapital LLC, a Chicago investment bank.
Winz said he opposed the overall increasing privatization of public assets and favored the Community Bank of Illinois Act, HB 2064, which would create a state bank
“This is the one thing that seems to be the best route for us,” he said.
“More of the city should be here too, including young people of color—that’s next,” said Kevin Coval, founder of Young Chicago Authors and Louder Than a Bomb. He stood with supporters across the street from the police surrounded encampment
He said that many of the issues protesters opposed, like inequality in education, poor housing, and police brutality affected young people everyday.
Coval said he heard a speaker mention “Occupy the Hood” earlier, an anti-eviction campaign, and that this was exactly what was needed in the movement.
He said he was making plans with organizers to bring his Wordplay poetry open mic out to the Occupy protests, so that high school students could express themselves.
“It is the role of poetry to articulate the matters of the day,” he said.
“People are saying this is what democracy looks like,” said Coval. “This is what revolution looks like.”
Last night the mayor’s office was not accepting phone calls from supporters asking that the Occupy Chicago protesters be allowed to remain at their encampment. Callers were instead directed to post on the city’s message board.
Officers waited until 1 a.m. to begin arresting the 170 protesters who stayed at the campsite. The first protesters were released from the 1st District Central police station at 1718 South State Street at 4 a.m. where a rally was held to demand the release of anyone still in prison.
Protesters will continue to gather at Grant Park tonight, bringing more tents and supplies.