Occupy Chicago Activists Face Second Mass Arrest; Rahm Emanuel Sends Nurses to Jail With Protesters
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On Saturday night, as promised, Occupy Chicago attempted for the second time to set up camp at "The Horse": The plaza in Grant Park on the northeast side of Michigan and Congress. And for the second time, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) responded with mass arrests, this time arresting an estimated 128-130 people who refused to leave the park and charging them with " Public Peace Violation." As of 6pm CT on Sunday, around 80 protesters were still in custody.
In some ways this was a repeat of what took place late on the Saturday night and early on the Sunday morning of the previous weekend. Once again, a crowd of Occupy Chicago participants and supporters assembled at LaSalle and Jackson in the city's financial district (where Occupy Chicago has been picketing since September 23), and marched down Jackson Avenue to Michigan and Congress, where they held a General Assembly and began to set up tents.
Once again, the CPD issued warnings related to the 11pm curfew and gave those unwilling to face arrest the opportunity to leave the area before making arrests one by one and taking down tents.
But with repetition comes escalation. While there may have been fewer arrests, my impression while at the scene was that tensions were higher than on October 22-23, with greater numbers of both police and of those protesters who, while unwilling to risk arrest, nevertheless stayed on the eastern side of Michigan Avenue rather than crossing the street. Police also seemed less tolerant of media observers, ejecting Progress Illinois' Aaron Krager from inside the barricaded plaza despite his press pass, and moving other members of the media further back from the scene.
The biggest change, however, seems to be in the CPD's treatment of those who were arrested.
Last weekend, even some of those arrested had praised the individual conduct of the CPD and the way in which protesters were treated. A different narrative is emerging about Saturday night, and indeed the subsequent day: As of 6pm CT Sunday, the CPD was still holding an estimated 80 protesters at the District 1 station at 18th and State.
Five people who were arrested for the second time (after being arrested last weekend) will be kept overnight and brought before a judge tomorrow, with the remaining 75 expected to be released later Sunday night. It's not clear why the five second-time arrestees need to be detained further, since a sixth second-time arrestee has reportedly already been released.
Several of those arrested have claimed that only one phone call was offered for all of the roughly 130 people in total. The non-profit National Lawyers Guild has reportedly learned that those detained were denied sleep, phone calls and access to lawyers.
Members of Occupy Chicago who were prepared to face arrest for a second time always knew that the consequences would increase, including rising bail fees: Nevertheless, it seems that the CPD are working to make arrest an increasingly daunting prospect.
If Occupy Chicago wants to continue attempting to set up camp in the same location—and it's no secret to anyone who attended either Saturday night or earlier General Assemblies that there is internal dissent on this issue—what they need to escalate is numbers. While organized labor support was in evidence, swelling numbers to a police-estimated peak of 3,000 people, the unions' presence Saturday still did not amount to some of the wildly optimistic numbers that had been rumored earlier in the week.