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Cops Ruin Celebration in Naperville

Police prevent RTS! in Naperville by shutting down several blocks and arresting 15-20 people.

(20 July 2001, Naperville, Illinois) In a small suburb outside of Chicago, 250-350 people attempted to hold a celebration in solidarity with the demonstrations in Italy against the G8 conference. Called Reclaim the Streets, this action was part of a global movement of people rebelling against the loss of public space.

Emphasizing that the event was more a celebration than a protest, flyers encouraged folks to meet at a downtown park. The objective was to take over an intersection in downtown Naperville and throw a street party to create a temporary autonomous zone. The press release states, “Atop a truck, live local bands are shouting, strumming, banging…People congregate in the middle of a street devoid of cars to meet, talk, and dance…Free food is handed out.”

Alas, those noble defenders of the status quo, the Naperville police department (quite possibly in its entirety) seized the sound truck. Randall Morris, a National Lawyers Guild observer, stated that the police needed to demonstrate probable cause that the truck in question would be used in a crime.

However, the fate of the sound truck may have been irrelevant as Naperville Police evidently delighted in overreacting to the situation. While the police presence is generally quite strong near the fountain in the downtown area, it was virtually alive with brass badges as the youths began gathering in the early evening.

For the first hour, the number of people swelled and the police officers were quite jovial, often joking with the party-goers. One male officer went so far as to toss Frisbee with a demonstrator. Other officers were less thrilled to be present, a fact demonstrated by an older officer destroying an inflatable peace-anarchy beach ball that had been bobbing over the heads of the crowd.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the evening was when someone appeared in front of the fountain in an incredible robot costume built out of detergent bottles and sporting a digital sampler. To the delight of all the youth and a minority of the older crowd milling around the area, he sampled several quotes from Resident Bush. The samples were not Bush’s famous bungling of the English language but rather coherent sentences such as “From now on, food will be used as a diplomatic weapon,” and other choice quotes.

At approximately 7:45, the party-goers, now aware the police had seized the sound truck, moved into the street to begin the march. After only a quarter block, they were pushed on to the sidewalk by cops hastily snapping rubber gloves on their hands. Staying on the sidewalk, they attempted to cross the first street they came to in the cross walk but were rebuffed by police that were reinforced by a fearsome SWAT unit. In doing so, they essentially closed the immediate area to all traffic, both automotive and pedestrian.

The next 2-3 hours saw the same thing repeated at several intersections while the number of people arrested climbed to between 15 and 20. Those arrested were often targeted by police for stepping in the street or loudly protesting police actions. In order to arrest a person, 4-5 officers would gang up on the person while the SWAT unit police physically shoved all onlookers, media and party-goer alike, away from the action. As is standard police practice, the nearby officers not involved in the arrest crowded around the scene which makes it nearly impossible to observe police misconduct.

Though the police actions frustrated most party-goers, many took the opportunity to discuss their reasons for supporting the action with onlookers. Perhaps the best explanation came from an unidentified man who said, “We are out here in solidarity with the demonstrators in Italy who are protesting against the homogenization of all human life.”

With a brief exception, demonstrators were never able to leave the park area. At least one person noted the irony that the police had shutdown a sizable portion of the downtown area to prevent the Reclaim the Streets action from shutting down one intersection. The evening ended with frustrated party-goers congregating on a corner of the park under the unblinking glare of state oppression.



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