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Occupy Chicago echoes through the Loop
May Day kicks off a series of protests against the approaching NATO Summit
Tuesday’s rain didn’t stop more than 1,000 Occupy Chicago protestors from marching down Jackson into the Loop as part of their International Worker’s Day demonstration. Led by a red, dump truck-sized pick-up truck and a set of loudspeakers, police lined the streets as protestors wearing masks and wielding signs linked arms and yelled in cadence; their presence resonating through the South Loop.
“You say cut back? We say fight back!”
“What’s disgusting? Union busting!”
Once the group arrived at the Federal Plaza, Andy Manos, lead-organizer of Occupy Chicago and the May Day demonstration, stood on the pre-staged podium and opened up the day’s events. He reminded his audience of current issues within Chicago, such as how schools are being handed over to private property and the closing of six mental health clinics in the city just this week.
“We ask ourselves on this May Day why we are here. But to me, it seems very simple,” Manos Said. “We make this city run. And the 1%, they don’t do anything. They’re unnecessary and we don’t need them. “
“Welcome to NATO,” he added. The crowd was in uproar.
While people danced in circles of percussion bands and brass horns playing music in the streets, members of labor unions, health care clinics and the immigrant working force spoke on behalf of their organizations regarding issues such as wages, tax reform, military funding, and the demand for a nuclear-free world.
Speaking on behalf of immigrant rights was conscious hip-hop artist Rebel Diaz, who has played a major role in raising awareness of immigrant issues within the academic community by speaking at universities across the country about the need for social change.
“This is where May 1 started. Chicago is a city that was built on the back of immigrants and on the back of workers,” Diaz said. “As a community, we can’t sit here and be content with receiving crumbs, we want a seat at the dinner table so we can eat with the whole community.”
Another key speaker was Joe Iosbaker, Chicago spokesperson for the United Antiwar Coalition. Iosbaker emphasized to the crowd that the NATO Summit meets only on behalf of the 1% to cut needed social spending in order to maintain profitability from war efforts in overseas.
“On May 20, we’re going to march in our tens of thousands and deliver them a message,” Iosbaker said. “They cannot carry on these wars in our name and spend money on wars while our clinics are closing, our schools are closing and while our neighborhoods are in crisis. Join with me and say money for jobs, and not for war!”
The protest concluded without conflict, injury or arrest. Winding down from the day, Manos took a moment to discuss the impact he believes the demonstration will have on the issues the movement wishes to change. He explained how on May 1 2006, when more than 30,000 people marched through the streets to fight for immigrant civil rights, it inspired multiple worker’s occupations, and gave people the confidence to stand for what they believe in. Since then, May Day has been an annual milestone for undocumented workers to fight for equal treatment and access to public services.
“Every time we have a mass-march, we hope to inspire more militant actions in the workplace, in the schools, or at the point of production,” he said. “It always feels awesome when workers come together and demonstrate their collective power.”
According to Manos, the next step between now and the NATO summit is the “10 Day’s of Action,” beginning with the “People’s Summit” the weekend of May 11 when key members in the Occupy movement will speak on issues and struggles with austerity both internationally and locally in Chicago. Between May 14 and 21, each “day of action” will be centered on a certain theme such as education and transportation.
“The thing that will tie all of these days together, and not only NATO, Is that we need more money for these issues and not war,” he said, emphasizing the message he wants to send as the summit approaches.
“They can’t scare us,” he added. “And they can’t take what’s right fully ours. “