CHICAGO, November 1, 2011- The Reverend Jesse Jackson visited Occupy Chicago yesterday, along with the Interim Executive Director of of Push Excel, Reverend Janette Wilson.
Reverend Jackson, surprisingly, just showed up out of the blue. He just appeared, ambling around the corner. There was no entourage of body guards or prearranged media presence. He walked through the small crowd of protesters, pressing the flesh, talking, and having his picture taken.
He rummaged through one of the bins until he found a sign he liked and then stood at the curb holding it. Since it was about 4 P.M., there were plenty of pedestrian and vehicular traffic to see him out there. People were leaving work and heading for home.
I asked Reverend Jackson if he had been to Occupy Chicago previously. He answered in the affirmative and stated he had been to other Occupy events throughout the country, including Occupy Washington D.C.
I tried to engage him in more conversation, but he was more interested in meeting and greeting the protesters and marching with them.
Occupy Chicago usually has a hard core group of between two and three dozen people throughout the day. While they are noisy, with the drumming, bugling, and shouting through bull horns, they are a relatively peaceful group.
The occupiers are also an eclectic mix of people from all walks of life and different political persuasions. Most are young, but there are few elderly people who participate.
Unlike other cities, Occupy Chicago does not have a permanent encampment. They have a one half block stretch each on LaSalle Street and Jackson Boulevard, in front of the Bank of America building. The first floor tenant is Ann Taylor. It is a striking symbol to see protesters in front of one of the top fashion houses specializing in classic upscale women’s apparel, especially for women in the business world.
Across from the occupation is the Board of Trade building and its newer complex. They are separated by a plaza. The people working at the Board have a wonderful sense of humor. During an Occupy teach-in in the plaza, several sheets of paper came wafting out of upper floor windows. They were employment applications for McDonalds. (See slide show below)
Since Occupy Chicago does not have a permanent “First Amendment Encampment”, they are relatively law abiding. They usually follow commands by the police to keep moving versus just sitting or standing, blocking the sidewalks and crosswalks. They don’t like it, they complain about it, but they comply.
So far, there has been little to no criminal activity surrounding Occupy Chicago. Unlike Zuccotti Park, which has reported drug use, drug sales, robberies, thefts, and sexual assaults.
While they still do not have a coherent message, they appear to be united around one cause. Their dislike or hatred for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Hundreds of these buttons, in different colors, were handed out earlier in the day and most of the protesters were wearing them.
Mayor Emanuel refuses to grant their request to establish what they call a permanent “First Amendment Encampment” where they want one. He has strictly enforced the 11 P.M. curfew in the parks, especially Grant Park, where they have tried to camp out. Several hundred people have been arrested or ticketed over the past few weeks for refusing to comply with orders to evacuate.
Occupy Chicago is pushing to establish some form of permanent encampment before winter sets in. They have a Direct Action committee working on tactics to try and force the city into caving in. Direct Action is just a fancy palatable term for disturbances. They could range from simple civil disobedience to criminal acts.
Occupy Chicago may as well give up now. Mayor Emanuel will not bend. They can march in their little canyon downtown, they can march through the Loop, and they can hold their nightly meetings in Grant Park.
That is all they are going to get.
Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance writer, freelance photographer, and consultant. He is a passionate cook and eater. He likes to be the sharp stick that pokes, annoys, and provokes. His opinions are his and his alone.
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