4 Signs the American Spring May Be Coming to Chicago
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Chicago’s G8/NATO organizing committee has landed on a slogan for the city as it hosts the twin summits this May: “The Global Crossroads.” This is certainly an appropriate moniker for a town built by immigrants, with its neighborhoods still bearing the names of the ethnic enclaves they once were: Ukranian Village, Greektown, Little Italy and Andersonville, to name a few. Recognizing the inherently global character of the Metropolis of the Midwest would be honorable, if that is what the organizers intended. However, when they say “global,” they are invoking the 1 percent sense of the word, as Don Welsh of the city’s Convention and Tourism Bureau makes clear: “To penetrate international markets takes time and money, and this is going to help us showcase to the international markets in a quick way.” It is the global markets that will cross paths as the world’s political and financial elite sets its agenda behind closed doors at McCormick Place.
Meanwhile, on the outside, there will be thousands of protesters expressing their dissent with the flagrant militarism and economic exploitation inherent to this agenda. Protest organizers in Chicago are busily coordinating with community groups, labor unions, and occupiers everywhere to plan what figures to be a riveting display of resistance. What’s more, the Canadian culture-jamming magazine Adbusters, which put out the call for Occupy Wall Street last year, has issued a similar “tactical briefing” regarding NATO/G8:
Against the backdrop of a global uprising that is simmering in dozens of countries and thousands of cities and towns, the G8 and NATO will hold a rare simultaneous summit in Chicago this May. The world’s military and political elites, heads of state, 7,500 officials from 80 nations, and more than 2,500 journalists will be there.
And so will we.
Commentators have spent months speculating about the potential for a resurgent movement this spring. Will Occupy simply dissipate like so many movements before, or will it regain the headlines? The hosting of NATO/G8 in one the country’s preeminent cities certainly seems to provide occasion for a re-emergent movement. Meanwhile, there are a number of other factors pointing to momentous actions around these events. Here are four signs that the American Spring is coming to Chicago:
1) Political Provocation
Political processes are reactive in nature. Social movements, in particular, tend to attain added momentum in response to elite provocation. As frustration grew over the increased complicity of this country’s two principal political parties in the crimes of the 1 percent, Occupy Wall Street rose as a vehicle to express this disaffection. Meanwhile, the widespread popularity of the movement is rooted in public disgust over the oft-violent crackdowns of peaceful protesters from coast-to-coast.
The political establishment in Chicago has been particularly brash in its treatment of the movement. Occupy Chicago is one of the few to never succeed in maintaining an encampment, as two attempts were met with over 300 arrests in the city’s famed Grant Park last fall. While clearly intended to deflate the movement’s momentum ahead of the coming summits in May, this political repression only served to place the plight of Occupy in the limelight.
Not content with cracking down on the Occupy camps, the mayor then escalated his assault by introducing a whole new set of rules for protests. Just prior to the holiday recess in December, he proposed changes to the two city ordinances dealing with demonstrations and parades, including increased fines for offenses to draconian new filing requirements for parade organizers. While he retreated on some of the major measures, including the four-fold increase in the minimum fine for resisting arrest, some of the more egregious elements remained in the bill approved by the city council on January 18th. According to the updated parade ordinance, organizers making permit applications will still have to “provide description of any sound amplification or other equipment that is on wheels or too large to be carried by one person, and description of the size and dimension of any sign, banner, or other attention-getting device that is too large to be carried by one person, to be used in connection with the parade”. Long-time Chicago protest organizer Andy Thayer could not emphasize the significance of this enough: “They still have quadrupled the fine for violating this ordinance, and they have used this technicality time and time again to ding us.” He suggests that the economic cost to organizers associated with these almost inevitable fines will deter people from exercising their 1st amendment rights.