Occupy Wall Street groups across the nation are joining forces for a Spring of Discontent despite skeptics’ expectations that the cold winter months would diminish the movement’s passion and momentum. Occupy Chicago organized a day of action on April 7, the official kickoff of Chicago Spring, including rallies, marches and other events intended to educate, inspire, unite and mobilize the 99 percent.
Despite persistent pressure from the city and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to impose tighter fines and restrictions to scatter Occupy Chicago protesters from the downtown area, the movement has only grown stronger, Calumet College of St. Joseph Assistant Professor of English Mark Cassello wrote in an April 5 Huffington Post article. In fact, he said the mayor’s actions have “helped forge a highly organized and nimble agent of social protest.”
"It's important to let the 1 percent know we have gone nowhere and gotten stronger (since) the winter," Occupy Chicago protester Mike Ehenreich said in a April 7 ABC7 article.
Groups across the city rallied in 13 neighborhoods, including some of Chicago’s suburbs, and gathered to talk about major national issues, such as lack of healthcare and the ongoing foreclosure crisis. According to Occupy Chicago’s Facebook page, organizers observed as many as 1,000 protesters in attendance during Saturday’s actions.
"I think when people come and voice their grievances, come up with solutions with how to improve this country, that's where true democracy occurs." - Calvin Ho, Occupy Chicago
"I want Medicare, Social Security," protestor Barb Hogman told ABC7. "I want housing to be taken care of. I want the upper 1 percent to pay fair taxes."
Occupy Chicago also organized non-violent resistance training for those interested in demonstrating during the NATO summit, which the city of Chicago will host on May 20-21.
"You know, the protesters really want the focus to be on the critique of NATO," Mary Zerkel of the American Friends Service Committee said on ABC7. "It's important to get everybody settled and ready to be nonviolent during the summit."
Occupy Chicago has future actions planned during the Chicago Spring, including a day of massive actions on May 1, the international workers’ day. Organizers anticipate massive civil unrest by protesters, as well as labor and immigrant rights groups, according to the Huffington Post.
On May 19, Occupy Chicago will unite with the Chicago Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda (CANG8) and will host a day of events, including a 2.5 mile march, to deliver an antiwar message to world leaders, according to the Huffington Post.
"What brings people here is we believe that America is a democracy," protester Calvin Ho said on ABC7. "It means that the people rule themselves. I think when people come and voice their grievances, come up with solutions with how to improve this country, that's where true democracy occurs."
Occupy D.C.’s two camps, the Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square encampments, are also joining forces. After failing to get permission to extend their permit, Freedom Plaza occupiers, founded by veteran antiwar activists, voted unanimously to move and merge with the McPherson Square encampment, which was founded by a group recent college graduates.
"The two occupations in Washington, D.C., are uniting in McPherson Square." - Lacy MacAuley, Occupy D.C.
“The two occupations in Washington, D.C., are uniting in McPherson Square,” protester Lacy MacAuley said on April 6 in a Washington Post article. “We’ve been getting closer and closer and doing joint [protest] actions. So this is something that’s been in the air for a while.”
Both groups had maintained separate camps since October in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, and had created separate events and governing structures, according to the Post.
The United States park Police evicted overnight campers at both locations in February and only allowed occupiers to keep symbolic vigil tents without sleeping in them. Park Service officials have since told McPherson Square occupiers to vacate the perimeters by their permit’s expiration date, April 29.
The Freedom Plaza occupiers will join the McPherson Square encampment within 10 days, according to the Post.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” Freedom Plaza occupier Barry Knight said told the Post. “Initially, there were differences in terms of age. McPherson started out with a much younger crowd. But I don’t understand how that age difference would be a negative if we merged. Diversity is a strength; division is a weakness.”
Diana Petrova can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.