4 Signs the American Spring May Be Coming to Chicago
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The anarchists are coming! The anarchists are coming! Oh no! These antics are designed to drum up public fear, and they have worked quite well in this country’s past. However, Americans may now resonate too strongly with the messages on the signs carried by protesters to believe all of what they hear in the corporate press.
4) Dynamic Political Organizing Capacity
Another compelling sign of a coming American Spring is the inspiring level of political organization present in Chicago. On the one hand, there is the “Coalition Against the NATO G8 War and Poverty Agenda” (CANG8), which has been planning the massive demonstration on May 19th since the summits were announced. They also organized much of the resistance to the city’s new anti-protester ordinance, including a picket at City Hall on the day of the vote. In that latter effort, they were joined by dozens of supporters of Occupy Chicago in what culminated a strong joint effort among protest groups throughout the city. Organizer Andy Thayer told me: “The battle over the ordinance really brought together these various movements. I think the city was really taken aback by the response.” He further said that he was expecting to see the same few regular faces at the work-time picket at City Hall, only to find that Occupy had substantially energized their efforts.
Since the crackdown on the encampment-to-be in Grant Park, Occupy Chicago has refocused on community organizing. For this article, I interviewed Rachael Perrotta, a member of the Press Committee. She spoke with a marked elegance, reflective of the political refinement of this high-functioning Occupy. When asked about the group’s plans to help with the NATO/G8 protests, she said: “We are focused on our neighborhood organizations. We would like to elevate the struggles of community groups, and labor and immigrant rights groups . . . We are hoping to show the world what people in Chicago are fighting for, and we hope to connect the policies of NATO/G8 with these local issues.”
Among the local initiatives is the increasingly national movement to help keep people in foreclosed homes, which Occupy has taken up with the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign. They also maintain a “labor outreach committee,” which has made significant gains in attracting rank-and-file support from the local teachers union, amalgamated transit union and postal worker union, according to Perrotta. She further explained that the group is planning to kick off its “Chicago Spring” with a mass action on April 7th. They will also point to May 1st, the international workers’ holiday, as a chance to support the local immigrant community, which has taken on an increasingly active role in organizing actions for that day in recent years.
May Day is also meant to be when the Adbusters’ month-long encampment begins. When asked if there were any plans to entertain that call to action, Occupy Chicago organizer Babur Balos said: “As far as Adbusters goes . . . we support them, but we haven’t set up any plans yet for a camp.” He emphasized that “May 1st in Chicago is more of a union and immigrant type of movement, so we are going to focus on that.” Perrotta also said that Occupy Chicago is more concentrated on its April 7th action, in addition to May 1st and another event on May 12th, than tackling another encampment attempt. When asked about any corroboration with the magazine, she said “”We are in direct contact with Adbusters. We are excited for anyone to help us promote our plans, but our focus is more on our neighborhood organizations.” Neither Perrolta or Balos had harsh words for Adbusters, despite reports that some in the movement were resentful about the call going out without the magazine first consulting anyone on the ground in Chicago.