Yesterday I went downtown to visit the new Occupy Chicago encampment in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The loose gathering of activist began their occupation on Friday and continued through a raining weekend. They were inspired by the Occupy Together movement which started at Wall Street in New York two weeks ago.
On a rainy Monday morning I found them still enthusiastically yelling slogans up through the vast canyon walls shaped on one side by the Chicago Board of Trade building and the Reserve bank on the other. Here’s a slideshow of the photos I took:
Click the full screen button in the lower right hand corner for best viewing.
I’m still pondering this Occupy Together movement. It’s easy for me to get excited about people standing up to corporations, but I also am conscious of the dynamic that Jonathan Matthew Smucker highlights in this thoughtful article. In short, questions the tactic of Occupy Wall Street and points out its lack of focus on context, organizing and leadership. His description of the movement that came out of the Seattle protests in 1999 ring true to my experience:
If your big introduction to collective action is a moment like November 30 in Seattle, it’s quite understandable, however mistaken, to try exclusively to replicate such magic. It’s like arriving at a farm during the harvest. Wow, all this delicious food is everywhere, and all you have to do is pluck it from the vine! You just want to keep harvesting and harvesting — why would anyone try anything else?! That the harvest was only possible through planting, watering, and diligent tending (including weeding!) escapes your notice. And this isn’t entirely your fault; if the farm had more resources, your elders would be taking the time to give you a better orientation.
On the other hand, I know how powerful apathy is. If the Occupy Together movement can crack that shell wide open, who knows what is possible?
And then of course there is the wild card of Anonymous who claims to have identified the police offer responsible for macing the women in this video:
It seems to me that Anonymous throws a significant unknown disruptive factor into the mix that Smucker may not have accounted for since there isn’t a clear historical precedent. In the protests after Seattle, police officers operated with impunity. That impunity may be crumbling.
“Revolution is fun, wage slavery is boring.” the young man at the Reserve bank yesterday yelled. I found myself feeling the generation gap as I pondered this slogan, but I admit there’s also part of me that hopes they will yell loud enough to wake us all up.
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