For thousands of people across the country this week marks a time of protest training dubbed the “99% Spring.”
With a goal of amassing 100,000 participants nationwide, the weeklong
series of educational seminars will take place in living rooms, church
basements, and online.
Similar to the motives behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, organizers say this week’s focus will be on educating people about how to set up and carry out non-violent protests targeting income disparity, home foreclosures, and unemployment issues.
into an election year where we have a rare chance to have a national
conversation about the biggest challenges facing us as a country, we
wanted to make sure that we continue on the movement that Occupy Wall
Street started last fall,” said Mehrdad Azemun, field director for the
Chicago-based National People's Action (NPA).
Azemun said the NPA, a non-partisan grassroots community activist organization, is just one of about 80 national organizations co-sponsoring the 99% Spring, while over 1,000 smaller organizations have been involved on the local level.
In Chicago, groups like A Just Harvest, Northside P.O.W.E.R., and Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, or S.O.U.L., will host just a few of the over 900 nationwide events planned taking place over the week.
At the seminars, some of which will last over six hours, participants have and will discuss the cause of the housing bust, the banking industry, and be advised on the best ways to protest using non-violent methods such as sit-ins and boycotts. The protesters-in-training will receive educational materials that contain statistics aimed towards furthering the narrative of the 99% versus the 1%, and about 200 suggestions for peaceful resistance.
“We’ll also be looking at the Civil Rights Movement and the Labor Movement and how in the history of the United States people have made changes by organizing together,” said Kristi Sanford, communications director for A Just Harvest. “We want to inspire people and show them there is a history to this and that there are strategic things we can be doing now.”
Sanford said after her organization’s training session on Saturday the group will be ready to march on Wednesday April 18 outside of a Chicago Chase Bank location, which she declined to specify, to protest the foreclosure of about 500 properties.
Also participating in the 99% Spring is Occupy Chicago, which made national headlines last fall. The group kicked off the “Chicago Spring” on Sunday when hundreds of protesters marched in the Loop. Beyond Sunday’s rally, Occupy Chicago has planned about a dozen training events similar to those previously mentioned.
One of those events, which will take place on Saturday at 1000 N. Milwaukee Ave., will be geared towards further educating experienced protestors.
“For the most part, these are folks who have been involved with some sort of demonstration … who are looking to formalize their knowledge and take the next step,” said Danielle Villarreal, an Occupy Chicago organizer.
Villarreal said once the week of training is finished the goal is get the participants more involved in community activism at numerous events over the coming months, including the upcoming NATO summit.
“It’s great that this whole year, especially in Chicago, there’s this series of massive events that have been dropped on our doorstep,” Villarreal said. “I don’t see the momentum stopping anytime soon.”