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Reclaim the Streets Party Features Celebration, Chases, Arrests

JUL. 20 NAPERVILLE, IL - In a boutique shopping area a group of activists
gather to "Reclaim the Streets" with the intention of celebrating in the
streets (
JUL. 20 NAPERVILLE, IL - In a boutique shopping area a group of activists

gather to "Reclaim the Streets" with the intention of celebrating in the

streets (

Their action is part of a worldwide series of street celebrations that call

into question the public's definition of space. While not overtly political,

these celebrations seek to temporarily repurpose street space for nonviolent


The timing of this celebration coincides with the protests of 100,000 people

in Genoa, Italy, who do not trust the leadership of the G8 countries. One

protestor was killed by a policeman wielding a pistol for allegedly

threatening him with a fire extinguisher.

The initial gathering of 14 swells to 100 in the Naperville Pavilion, not

including onlookers who mingle and partake of the cultural activities.

Participants are almost entirely white youth.

Resembling an impromptu, ragtag carnival the activities in the park feature

a musician playing guitar and singing "the flag is just a rag." A couple of

women join in on the chorus while people nearby fling a frisbee around.

Beachballs bounce from person to person as part of a game to keep them from

touching the ground. Large bubbles float past, the creations of a string

dipped in soap water.

A large plastic mat is unrolled for a game of homemade Twister. Instead of

dots this mat features colored stencils of a peace sign, an anarchy sign, a

fist and other symbols. Bodies are soon writhing as twelve people contort

themselves to place their hands and feet on the mat.

Nearby a grainy photo on a placard shows a woman being pulled down and

arrested by a riot cop. Outside its edges is written "Who is violent? Who is

being protected? Who is in control?"

A cloth puppet of a fish, held aloft on two sticks, winds its way through

the crowd while a rapper spins off a political slam at breakneck speed. Drum

beats accent his rhythm as his words come spilling out, seemingly faster and

faster. A woman's long wail rises and spreads out over his political poetry.

The rapper's face begins to turn red as his stiffened hand jerks back and

forth with his frantic pace. Suddenly he stops and in the same split-second

another rapper immediately picks up and continues without missing a beat.

The uniformed police presence is unavoidable, ranging from officers on the

perimeter of the park to two on the roof of the library opposite the park.

Four officers wade into the crowd and stand. Reports come in from a National

Lawyers Guild observer that the police have seized a van containing band

equipment. The observer rhetorically asks whether this seizure really

constitutes "reasonable suspicion."

A pair of activists move through the crowd with a laminated sign that says

"Reclaim the Streets. The next revolution will be a party in the streets for

life, liberty and happiness."

A couple of 50-ish people, Naperville residents, look on but don't know what

to make of the scene in front of them. Referring to the city's display of

painted statues the man says, "I was looking for giraffes, but I guess this

[gathering] is about food."

Sam, from West Chicago, was driving by and stopped to see what the

festivities are about. "I'm not for anarchy, but that's pretty cool," he

says, watching someone who has become a plastic orange robot, covered in

thick plastic detergent bottles, complete with Transformer-type helmet. "It"

stands near the fountain and plays a beatbox rhythm out of a sound deck

embedded in another detergent bottle. Politicians' words become its fodder

as its deck distorts soundbites like "food is a diplomatic weapon,"

"terrorism," and "fast-track negotiating authority to open up markets around

the world."

One activist holds a puppet on a stick, a double-bulbed tomato with a sign

labelling it "genetically modified."

"Start moving right now!" exclaims an activist near the fountain. People

decide to pick up and leave the park and move onto the sidewalk, then the

street, as a chant is picked up: "Whose streets? / Our streets!"

Officers surround the group on all sides as Officer R. McGury readies his

MK-9 Magnum cannister. The officers continue in their attempts to tell the

group to "get on the sidewalk," but they are mostly drowned out by the

crowd's chanting. Two police cars appear on the other side of the median and

two German shepherd barking dogs are brought out. A formation of 18 officers

in padded gear marches to the area.

Officers Bisch and Bhipanik listen to their radios and move themselves to

Main Street in an attempt to divide the crowd in two. Meanwhile many of the

protestors have linked arms and yell "Hey, hey, ho, ho / This police party's

got to go."

"Fuck you, you fat piece of shit," yells one protestor. A flatbed truck

pulls up, carrying sawhorses. The cab of the truck reads "Traffic Control

and Protection."

Most onlookers are on the opposite side of Jackson Street. Several cross the

street away from crosswalks as Officer Corneliusen tells a 6-foot black

protestor that he "can cross the street over at the intersection."

Jake Hamm becomes the first of about a dozen total to be arrested. "I went

to get ice cream and they arrested me," he says, while being led in cuffs to

a waiting paddy wagon.

"I was threatened with arrest in the parking lot over there," says Carrie of

St. Charles. "The cop told me, 'If you're not involved here go away or else

you'll be arrested.' I heard that if a cop tries to arrest you you should

state loudly that 'I'm being arrested for nothing.'"

At the Main Street entrance to the park Officer Bisch and a spikehaired

activist engage in a dancing standoff. "This is a public park," says the

activist. He tries to duck and dart past the officer but his horizontal

motion is met by the officer's.

"If you touch me I'll charge you with battery," says Officer Bisch.

Presently a friend behind the officer reaches around and pulls the activist

past the officer and into the park. Now the rest of the crowd streams past

the four officers standing at the entrance. Officer Hartman says, "[We]

might as well let them in."

"Which way are you guys going to go?" asks Officer McGury.

"What are you protecting me from?" retorts a protestor.

The group moves back to the fountain area where Officer McGury is seen

collecting up some protest materials, including the fish puppet, that were left behind. He commands another officer, "Nobody takes this, this is ours."

The complement of officers fills the middle of Jackson Street. A stand-off

ensues with the group of protestors who are gathered on the sidewalk and

grassy embankment of the park. While protestors are told to "stay on the

sidewalk," a trio of 40-ish pedestrians cross the middle of Jackson without


"Don't cross the street, for God's sakes!" screams a protestor at Jackson

and Eagle. A red cloth banner reads "Freedom is not just for the


Pointing at the officers another says, "There's your democracy for you." He

adds, "If we let everyone cross the street anything could happen."

Police cars have now blocked off traffic for a one-block radius around the

intersection of Eagle and Jackson, where 66 officers are stationed. As two

youth are arrested someone screams "We're not violent, how about you?"

Officer Corneliusen blocks my access to the people being arrested, even

though I identify myself as a press reporter. "Get on the grass," he tells

me, as I hesitantly do so.

"Why are you singling me out? Look over there -- there are people on the

sidewalk right over there," I reply. He relents after a moment and more

people move back to the sidewalk with me.

"2 - 4 - 6 - 8 / Fuck your police state!" shout a few protestors while the

sounds of a punk band come from behind the trees. "Give us peace!" yells

another. As an activist scrawls some writing on the sidewalk with chalk

Officer C. Cali moves in with a video camera to document him. "Look, I'm

writing on the sidewalk with chalk," retorts the chalker to the officer.

"Shortround" becomes the next to be arrested. She yells for someone to get

her walkie-talkie, but it lies untouched on the ground until an officer

picks it up.

A large crowd of observers now spans the block in front of the library watching events transpire. After a quick round of "Freedom of assembly / Freedom of expression," the crowd does a listen-and-repeat exercise to convey the words of one protestor before deciding to head off to the jail where the arrested have been taken.

"So-so-so / So-li-dar-i-té" chants the crowd as they spread out over a

footbridge and head toward Main Street. Several link arms as they take to

the street where they outnumber a trio of bike officers who are unable to

convince them to leave the street.

One officer tries to chase down a protestor wearing a magenta wig but is

unsuccessful. Another bicycle officer, a white woman of 5'4", chubby,

refuses to let me see her name badge. She covers it up with her hand and

later removes it despite my requests for her to identify herself. Officer

Duhig subsequently explains that "she will not be giving her name right


The crowd is split on either side of the street. Two are arrested in front

of the Naper Settlement, allegedly for throwing a smoke device. "He was

throwing a smoke bomb," explains one officer, 5'10", 40-ish, with gray-flecked hair and a moustache.

One protestor is sprayed with a chemical after being subdued and cuffed. Two

more are arrested, including a reporter for the Chicago Independent Media

Center, Sophia Delaney. A fifth has green-flecked blonde hair with a

spaghetti-string t-shirt and blue kerchief.

"Why are you doing this?" screams a protestor at the police. After the group

decides to move back down the street, away from the police blockade, a

sergeant tells one guy to "keep moving" while he squats to remove a

cigarette from a pack on his ankle.

At Webster and Aurora the group on one side crosses over to rejoin the

people on the other side. Officers move in front of the pedestrians as they

cross, seemingly to dissuade them from crossing at the crosswalk.

Back at Eagle and Jackson Jim Werdeniuk of Chicago's South Side confides

that he was asking them "can we cross the street and they wouldn't give an

answer. I continued to ask and they said, 'It's for your protection.'

Protection from what?" Jim exclaims. "They said it was [protection from]

'being hit by traffic.' [The police] are treating this park as a

concentration camp. They're surrounding it. If you walk off they'll find a

reason to pull you off. What is the crime for walking in the street? They

wouldn't answer. If they don't know, that's illegal arrest, that's

detainment of people."

Jim continues, "I came to this [event] because people our age are being

denied our First Amendment rights. [The police] use scare tactics. Our age

group is profiled, segregated and picked on."

A spokesgroup is set up again which relays information from Randall Morris.

"It looks like they're being charged with mass action, which is a

fourth-degree felony. There will be a bond hearing tomorrow at the Du Page

Judicial Courthouse, 500 N. County Farm Road. Free streets forever! Freedom!

Freedom! Freedom!"

As the event winds down people rest on the ground and partake of bagels and

muffins provided by Food Not Bombs. The crowd dwindles as conversations take

place on either side of the curb. One activist discusses his worldview with

a woman, 60-ish, noting that CEO compensation has risen dramatically in the

past few years. Another explains the functionings of market economics to two


A short while after a request for quotes one black-scarved protestor gives

his statement: "Happy Friday!"




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