On Saturday night approximately 175 people of various backgrounds stood their ground in Grant Park at Michigan Ave. and Congress St. with nearly two dozen tents to declare a new occupation spot. At about 1 a.m. the Chicago Police department moved in on the group's camp site for violating the 11 p.m. park curfew. One by one officers arrested protesters giving them the option to either leave or be arrested.
Occupy Chicago started with seven young people standing out front of the Chicago Board of Trade building less than a month ago. On Saturday night approximately 175 people of various backgrounds stood their ground in Grant Park at Michigan Ave. and Congress St. with nearly two dozen tents to declare a new occupation spot. The night began with a march from the Board of Trade building to the new location filling the entirety of Jackson Avenue with between 2,500 and 3,000 people, according to estimates by police.
At about 1 a.m. the Chicago Police department moved in on the group's camp site for violating the 11 p.m. park curfew. One by one officers arrested protesters giving them the option to either leave or be arrested.
Arise Chicago field organizer Micah Uetricht responded to the option with the following: “Unless you are willing to take my spot, then I am willing to be arrested.” Most of those arrested were released the next morning with bail waived. Supporters of the movement maintain that more than 200 were arrested, while police stand by their initial total of 175.
Protesters arrived at Grant Park and shared an open mic for a few hours prior to the curfew, allowing speakers from participating organizations and everyday people to speak. While the mic filled the night air, a few dozen set up the tents that would later be carried away by police. The mostly cordial relationship between protesters and police remained that way throughout the night with chants of “CPD is the 99 percent!”
Only a couple blemishes could be found as a very small group of activists chanted a couple of anti-police slogans when couple officers destroyed some of their tents. Otherwise, property was to be returned to the rightful owner.
The rallying cries of the movement come from a deep anger and frustration surrounding economic uncertainty in the U.S. and a general feeling of helplessness amongst a growing number of Americans. Many believe corporate power and money rule the political discourse and decisions at every level. Marchers yelled “people over profits” and “Whose streets? Our streets!”
“We support it because we are the 99 percent,” said Susan Ryan, an internet marketer from Evanston. Her family of four joined in the march while walking by after dinner. The mother of two said she has been supporting her family for the last two years after her husband lost his job as an licensed surveyor.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was in constant contact with police but ultimately:
Police officials determined they could not allow the more than 2,000 protesters to spend the night in the public park because it would be harder to get them out in the coming days, according to a police source familiar with the events.
It also would set a bad precedent for dealing with thousands of demonstrators expected to converge on Chicago from around the world during the G-8 and NATO summits that will be held simultaneously in May, the source said.
A few of the activists are already planning on protesting the two summits, which are expected to draw even more protesters from around the world. Occupy Chicago might be a small trial run for police, according to some in law enforcement; although the movement does not seem to be waning.
On Sunday night, 400 people participated in an Occupy Chicago general assembly meeting illustrating that the arrests here and in other cities have not persuaded activists to give up their fight. On the contrary, arrests in New York, Boston and Seattle resulted in larger turnouts in the days following the scuffles with police.
The movement is no longer young adults leading the way, but is composed of people from all walks of life.
“People are suffering and this is where churches, mosques, synagogues need to be at,” said Rev. Yossi Lopze-Hineynu. “We’re bailing out banks, we need to be out here to put them on notice.”
“We are convinced there is something that we can do about it,” said Reggie Weaver during the open mic.
A favorite -- and telling -- chant of the crowd over the weekend was: “One! We are the people... Two! We are united... Three! The occupation is not leaving!”
Images: Aaron Krager/Progress Illinois