For the second consecutive Saturday, the Occupy Chicago movement flexed its muscles with a 2,000-person march down Jackson Ave. and attempted occupation of Grant Park. More than 100 Chicago police officers surrounded the park warning protesters of the 11 p.m. park curfew and the risk of possible arrest.
By the end of the night at least 130 protesters were handcuffed with zip ties, photographed and escorted to the first district police station at 18th St. & State St. by a city paddy wagon and Cook County Sheriff buses by county correctional guards.
Occupy Chicago celebrated its first full month of protests with the move, signalling its passion and desire to be heard on a larger scale. During its monthlong existence, the movement has struggled to find a specific spot to call its own, like Occupy Wall Street and various movements around the country claiming public parks in other cities. Both crackdowns in the span of eight days appear to be an effort in precedent control for the upcoming NATO and G8 summits happening next May. Protesters seem well aware of the upcoming summits with multiple speakers declaring the movement will continue through the winter and into the international events.
Here's more from Saturday night's march and rally:
About 40 minutes prior to curfew, Occupy Chicago organizers made a startling announcement by holding a vote on invoking their contingency plan to move to the Thompson Center.
“What you saw was democracy in action and sometimes direct democracy means we don’t all agree,” said Ashley Bohrer, an organizer arrested last week. “What happened was, we came here and our numbers were slightly less than we anticipated and some people got scared. Dealing with the police is scary.”
The original plan to occupy Grant Park prevailed with passionate supporters rallying around the National Nurses United’s (NNU) medical tent. As a result of the circle of protection by protesters, nurses were the last to be arrested and the tent was taken down by police at roughly 2:45 p.m.
“Even in wartime, combatants respect the work of nurses and other first responders. Yet Mayor Emanuel and Chicago seem to care as little about that tradition as they do in protecting the constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro in statement. “These arrests are disgraceful and unconscionable, and will not deter our nurses from continuing this mission, setting up the station again, and continuing to support the protests.”
Protesters began to be released Sunday afternoon after going through a full booking session to deter future actions. More than 300 people have been arrested in the Occupy Chicago movement after Saturday night’s “take the horse” efforts.
The movement faces stiff challenges in the days ahead with potential divisions in leadership and cold temperatures in the upcoming weeks. Despite that, SEIU* Health Care Illinois & Indiana pledged a $5,000 donation for tents, sleeping bags and other supplies to support the effort. In addition, the outreach committee promised more aggressive efforts to rally support behind the movement.
* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this web site.