Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
This May Chicago will host a summit already attracting the attention of Wall Street-ers and Occupiers both. Preparations are being made. First, from the Occupied perspective, via Adbusters:
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.
On May 1, 50,000 people from all over the world will flock to Chicago, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and #OCCUPYCHICAGO for a month. With a bit of luck, we’ll pull off the biggest multinational occupation of a summit meeting the world has ever seen.
I don’t know if 50,000 is close to reasonable, though I hope it is. I do think it’s safe to guess that the Occupiers will be numerous. It’s probably also safe to guess that most of the G8 and NATO summit attendees won’t be paying direct attention to the Occupation. But the international gathering won’t and can’t avoid the messages of the public spaces created by the Arab Spring, Occupy, 99% and more.
From the same Adbuster’s piece:
And when the G8 and NATO meet behind closed doors on May 19, we’ll be ready with our demands: a Robin Hood Tax; a ban on high frequency ‘flash’ trading; a binding climate change accord; a three strikes and you’re out law for corporate criminals; an all out initiative for a nuclear-free Middle East; whatever we decide in our general assemblies and in our global internet brainstorm – we the people will set the agenda for the next few years and demand our leaders carry it out.
And if they don’t listen; if they ignore us and put our demands on the back burner like they’ve done so many times before; then, with Gandhian ferocity, we’ll flashmob the streets, shut down stock exchanges, campuses, corporate headquarters and cities across the globe; we’ll make the price of doing business as usual too much to bear.
Predictable reaction to the above: what makes you think the attendees will pay any attention? What seems like an obvious response to me: because they already are. See State of the Union address and World Economic Forum.
Also, see Rahm Emmanuel, Chicago’s mayor. From Truth Out:
Following weeks of public pressure against Chicago’s changes to the city ordinance by Occupy groups and concerned citizens, the City Council voted Thursday to adopt the ordinance changes introduced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Critics say the ‘sit down and shut up’ ordinance, as it has been called, seeks to chill protest and civil liberties in Chicago … .
When the ordinance was first introduced, it was said to be only a measure for the NATO/G8 conference to be held in Chicago in May, but it was later revealed that the ordinance change is expected to be permanent.
The TruthOut piece lists specifics of the approved ordinance, citing the Chicago Independent Media Center. Those include:
Virtually every street protest in the downtown would be designated a ‘large parade,’ requiring $1 million liability insurance …
Demonstration organizers would be required to have one marshal for every 100 participants.
Under a wholly new section of the municipal code …, even gatherings on sidewalks, with no presence in the streets, would now be subject to demands that they get permits, giving the City extraordinary latitude to dictate what union and other pickets occur or get shut down by police action.
Allow the police Superintendent to deputize FBI, DHS, ATF, and DOJ employees as Chicago police officers.
There was a lot of pushback on Emanuel’s original plan, and there was at least one concession, as Common Dreams reports. The mayor did drop an increase in minimum fines from $25 to $200, and from doubling the maximum fine to $1000. Common Dreams also provides a quote from Chicago Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy:
‘We don’t want to give the impression that we’re looking to do anything about the 1st Amendment except protect it.’
A Sun Times story includes this about Chicago’s preparations:
Deb Kirby, chief of international relations for the Chicago Police Department, estimated that as many as 10,000 protesters would descend on Chicago to protest the back-to-back summits.
That’s significantly less than Adbuster’s estimate of 50,000, and it may well be that the actual number will fall somewhere in-between. Either way, there will likely be significant numbers of people, from around the world, in Chicago when the G8 and NATO come together. I don’t know if Emanuel shares what sounds like the “foreigner” concerns of Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke, quoted in the Sun Times piece:
‘These aren’t the home-grown, backyard, vegetable garden protesters. They’re gonna be coming from Europe. They’re gonna be coming from Asia. And they’re gonna be coming from Latin America.’
Perhaps a part of Mr. Burke’s preparation will be learning to say, “sit down and shut up” in multiple languages.
Adbusters is not only preparing and pushing for this, but are talking more, and more openly, about the need for “political action.” Adbusters doesn’t direct or control the movement, but it’s certainly influential. More about that later. For now, May in Chicago is one of the biggest Occupy (and related) actions yet planned. Coming in the midst of the 2012 political games, it could get very interesting.
(Occupy Chicago poster via Adbusters)