Occupy Chicago: This is What Democracy Looks Like!


I recently spent some time at #OccupyChicago with my good friend Allyson. Occupy Chicago is at the heart of the financial district in Chicago and is located at the corner of Jackson and LaSalle, which is a very short walk from the train. Their daily schedule includes twice daily general assemblies and one march. The protesters are there 24/7. I highly suggest going to Occupy Chicago if you live in the Chicago metropolitan area and can get away for a few hours. Click here for custom designed Occupy Chicago protest signs. The faces on these protest signs are some of the people at the protest. If you go, you just may run into some of them.

In case you haven’t heard of the Occupy movement, the protesting starting at Wall Street in New York and is quickly spreading to cities all over the country. There’s even an Occupy Appleton protest scheduled for October 15.

Just who are these people and what are they trying to say? From the adbusters Occupy Wall Street page.

“#OCCUPYWALLSTREET is a people powered movement for democracy that began in America on September 17 with an encampment in the financial district of New York City. Inspired by the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising and the Spanish acampadas, we vow to end the monied corruption of our democracy … join us! We’re now in DAY 21.”

But who exactly is Occupy Chicago? From their F.A.Q. Page:

“We are the people of Occupy Chicago, part of a world Occupy Movement. What does Democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like.”

There is a very committed group at Occupy Chicago. They are successful in their protest in spite of all the unique challenges they face. One challenge they have is a distinct lack of space or people and items. I was told they had been keeping things neatly in storage totes, but the police told them they needed to move them. A small Uhaul trailer was rented to store these items. They also have rolling shopping carts available that contain things like baked goods, bottled water and blankets.

Another challenge they faced was poor weather for the entire first week of the protest. Luckily they had people willing and able to take wet items from the protest area, dry them and return them later in the day. The weather has now cleared up and things are staying dry.

They are amazingly organized, are working well with the local police and seem to be getting their message out. As an added bonus, these protesters are also incredibly friendly.

Each day there are at least two General Assembly meetings. These are held off site with some people staying behind to maintain a “presence” at the protest. All decisions are made at the General Assemblies with a majority vote required for anything to pass. They are currently putting together their Mission Statement and list of grievances. Everyone is welcome to join in and have their voices heard. It may take longer to do it this way, but true democracy isn’t always quick or pretty.

The daily march was fast paced and exhilarating. Some of the chants included “Tell me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like” and “We are the 99 percent”. People had drums, bells and vuvuzulas as added noise makers. It was a great time. Many people joined the march while it was in motion and some looked like they wanted to join, but couldn’t quite bring themselves to do it. The thing that surprised me is how many people carry cameras with them in Chicago. These people didn’t look like tourists to me or my friend. It must be the “new norm” for at least half of everyone to have a camera at the ready.

Every person I spoke to had their own unique story of why they were there. There were the main organizers who are basically living there and are keeping everything going. These are the people that deserve a lot more credit than they’re getting. They are working against a lot of daunting challenges and they are not only meeting the challenges head on, they are overcoming them.

One young man was there because he felt he had to be there. He’s currently traveling around the country and decided to stop in Chicago once he heard about it.

I ran into two women who were handing out fliers to passers by. They were on their lunch break and only stayed long enough to distribute their information.

Another young man has a day job delivering flowers in the Chicago area. Each night he spends time at the occupation. He says the movement has him “energized” and will continue to come to the protest as long as it’s still happening. It’s great to see people genuinely excited about democracy.

Please consider taking part in Occupy Chicago. If you cant’ make it to Chicago for any reason, take part in an Occupy that is closer to home. They are springing up all over. This movement is only for the bottom 99% of wage earners in this country, so if you’re in the top 1% you can disregard the message. The time to get involved is now and the democracy you save could be your own.

Occupy Chicago has the following needs. Please check this site often as the list frequently updated.
Donation Request update 10/3:
A better laptop for the stream, the current one barely cuts it.
12v battery chargers (NOTE 2a (amps) is the maxim rate you want to charge these types of batteries)
Transportation to/from where batteries are being charged (kedzie and Addison, unless someone lives closer) to the protest 2-3 times a day.
More Carts 
A nice load bearing backpack that can be loaded with batteries for mobile streaming (preferable with a lot of back padding, likely to be 35lbs of batteries alone)
Coolers, more for organization then anything.
1 Broom and dust pan
Medical Tape
Gauze wraps
Elastic bandages
Hand warmers
Feminine Hygiene products
Drum Sticks
Garbage bags
Books and educational materials for Library
Fliers (art can be found here. )
Money donations can be made at www.ocupychi.org  or arrange in person donation via donations@occupychi.org
You, your friends, and your family and your voices!

Special thank you to Allyson for letting me stay with her while we went to Occupy Chicago and thank you to Ray Reynolds for improving on some of the pictures taken at night.

Some pictures from Occupy Chicago: