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LOCAL Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights : Crime & Police : Peace : Protest Activity


March 19 marked the second anniversary of the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, which mobilized some 5,000 protesters to show up and voice their opposition. That opposition only ran so deep though.
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Chicago—Anti-war protesters, from the north, south, and west sides, converged on downtown Chicago with the intention of marching down Michigan Avenue only to have the march usurped by “leaders” willing to acquiesce to police and state demands by marching down Dearborn.

March 19 marked the second anniversary of the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, which mobilized some 5,000 protesters to show up and voice their opposition. That opposition only ran so deep though.

In non-compliance with Mayor Daley’s police state tactics, organizers of the M19 Coalition held a press conference that produced arrests at Oak and Michigan. While it was good to know that some resistance occurred on Saturday it became detrimental to the crowd gathered at Dearborn and Oak. The action created a fear of mass arrests that ran through the crowd as negotiators decided for many different groups, undemocratically, that the best thing to do would be to acquiesce to police demands and march as ordered instead of standing off with cops and taking State street. It was a cowardly decision to march down Dearborn. It was demoralizing to witness “leaders” calling on people to abandon State and then watch them turn around and march down Dearborn leaving behind maybe 100 or so radicals determined to march down State. At that point these radicals started to chant “shame” indicating the blatant lack of solidarity amongst protesters. It was a comic scene. As radicals started chanting “shame” liberals who were lead to believe they had to abandon comrades came back to stand with the radicals. But again, the authoritarians with the bullhorns bullied people into going down Dearborn claiming that if we didn’t march as ordered we would all be arrested. Those same radicals then began to chant “Don’t Sell Us Out!” but to no avail. The sheer lack of solidarity was astounding as people again left the radicals, this time for good. Before and after this occurred I heard many people state that they had better listen to police because if they didn’t they could end up in jail like Andy Thayer. It was infuriating.

Just because someone has a bullhorn doesn’t mean they know what’s going on nor have any more authority over what you do than yourself.

Marching down Dearborn was not a victory; it was a defeat. It was no better than walking down Clark, the original route the police demanded we take.

Speaking of police orders, the gathering at Federal Plaza was equally demoralizing. It was the same tired speeches I’ve heard at these things again and again while taking whatever energy was left and suffocating the life out of it. Not only that, but it was the police informing everyone, as if this was their march and rally, that they could legally rally at Federal Plaza and that the CPD was in no way violating rights. But let’s focus on probably the only anarchist speaker at this police sanctioned and monitored gathering. Liberte Unlocked of the Chicagoland Anarchist Network (CAN) was slated to speak on behalf of CAN. As the only anarchist up there you would think there would be some pressure to present her near the beginning of the speakers so that the group she represented could have its message put out. Liberte got to speak, at the very end, when almost all of the protesters had cleared out. She did have a few critical things to say and I think they are worth bringing up. She said, “We don’t even expect people to risk arrest with us, just have our backs and march with us once we break police lines, like what happened two years ago when the black bloc broke police lines and crowds of thousands took Lake Shore Drive.” On top of that Liberte described how the “left” tends to use images of Palestinian children resisting their occupation by throwing rocks at Israeli tanks on their newspapers and flyers that they hawk at events like M19. Yet the sheer hypocrisy of those same people is astounding because for all their rhetoric and all their images they tend to huddle away from the real struggle at the front of the lines. Palestinian children are throwing rocks at tanks and these people can’t even work to take State Street. What are we going to do when the CPD finally does get tanks?

Lastly, why Michigan Avenue and why downtown on a Saturday? What tactical value does this have? Why aren’t we occupying the mayor’s office? Why aren’t we doing something more effective than being herded around like animals by police in the middle of a deserted downtown, while at the same time legitimizing police and state authority by marching where they want us to?

If we are against this illegal war, which was forced on people by the state, why do we allow the same state the power to determine where and how we can gather in our own city?

Next year things have to change. We need more spontaneity, creativity, and autonomy and less submission to and domination by a few so called “leaders.” Next year on March 19th I refuse to be apart of another scripted event.



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