21 days in May: an Occupy Novella, part six

“MIC CHECK!” The moderator yelled above the scattered conversations, the heavy traffic along Congress Parkway and the rattle of a passing El train above Wabash. Most of the chattering faded quickly as a dozen or so Occupiers replied in unison, “Mic Check!”
The fog along Chicago’s Lakefront remained. That steely wind, chilling for early, May burdened the protesters, who clung together closely. There was supposedly a full moon, 16 percent bigger and brighter than normal the news boasted, but it was nowhere to be seen to those gathered on the concrete steps beneath the great bronze Indian statues by the Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovich. The lights of the city, the great steel and glass and concrete towers along Michigan Avenue, were softened by the overcast.
“Mic Check!” the moderator reasserted, receiving a stronger response from the forty or so gathered, the so-called people’s mic, for the evening’s General Assembly announcements. Still a hand full of conversations persisted until a deceptively small girl in a weathered black leather jacket and bright orange hair rose from the steps where most were gathered.
“Hey, shut the fuck up!” she fired, instantly bringing silence, but for a couple of laughs and a smattering of supportive applause. The proceedings at the GAs were hardly austere and were most certainly urban, young and audacious by contrast
“For all those new to Occupy Chicago and the GA,” the moderator began, “we are a non-partisan, non-violent movement, an alcohol and drug free assembly. If you want to do that shit, do it away from the movement. Everyone has a voice here, but we will not tolerate hate and violent speech or disrespect…”
They were a mix of energized youth, concerned grandparents, blue collar union workers, teachers, a couple of business-looking types, punks, radicals, the curious, poor and homeless who had found in Occupy purpose and reason to care, and everything in between. They were from everywhere, Obama supporters, the politically aloof and disgusted, anarchists, Ron Paul supporters, disaffected Tea partiers, Anonymous activists with their telltale masks, veterans and housewives. There were anarchists, peace activists, dreamers and the disillusioned. They came together for peace, social injustice, racism, jobs, politics, corporate greed, foreclosures, Medicaid, social security and a laundry list of other grievances, not unlike the litany of complaints the founding fathers held against the King of England. They too were a rabble, seemingly unfocused and disagreeable among themselves and in reality leaderless. Truth of it was, their grievances were hardly unfocused and boiled down to one simple concept that was increasingly threatened by corporatists and predatory bankers: freedom.
There was a structure and respectful formality to the proceedings. Speakers and committee members-press, social outreach, arts and recreation, secretariat, education- lined up behind the moderator. Someone kept notes for each GA on a laptop, another kept time as each presenter was kept to a two minute maximum, and still another live streamed the event in real time to the internet. The revolution, so went the line in the movement, referring to the glaring lack of positive coverage by the media, will not be televised, but it will be digital!
Angelo was at the back of the assembly where he could see and observe everyone in attendance. He was holding a cigarette, which gave him an excuse to be off from the others. Jack was nowhere to be seen and hadn’t answered any of his mails or phone messages since leaving the bar the other night. He’d have to find a way to get back in Jack’s good favor, at least enough to get close again and finish what was started. He was simply too invested in him already and didn’t have the time to cultivate a new target.
Angelo checked his watch. He’d been called to a meeting at Tom Koffer’s office, something urgent, the message said. He’d give Jack another few minutes. If he didn’t show, Angelo vowed to show up at his door. Time was of the essence. There was no other choice.
The GA was well underway when Jack crossed Michigan Avenue in front of Roosevelt University. He jogged across the light, grimacing when a cab sped up purposely just to mess with him. He was half hoping, half dreading that he might run into Angelo and stopped short when he spotted him at the back of the assembly. Taking a deep breath he bridged the gap, stopping beside Angelo without looking at him.
“Jack!” Angelo exclaimed quietly. “I really need to talk with…”
Jack stopped him by motioning to the assembly and a presenter making an announcement about the upcoming protests.
“…Episcopal Anglican church at 26th and Michigan. Reverend Narain has invited activists to camp on the church grounds in the shadow of McCormick Place where the summit will be held. As with every Occupy event, it will be a peaceful sanctuary, no drugs, no alcohol. We are…”
“Occupy will be sitting practically right in their laps,” Angelo boasted. “The police and feds…”
Jack fumed. “You need to stop. After what you said the other night…I came here to tell them I think you’re dangerous to the movement and maybe you should be banned from any more activities.”
Angelo stood and faced him directly. For the first time Jack found him truly menacing, as if the usual boundaries between men were erased, and that any outcome was possible. He was bigger and obviously more powerful than Jack, and obviously wasn’t inclined to shy from a fight. Jack, on the other hand eschewed the primitivism and baseness of physical violence, but he was also passionate enough about the cause to defend it at the cost of his own personal safety.
“Who are you to tell me where I can and can’t go?” Angelo growled. “I haven’t said a thing everyone else over there hasn’t thought or said at one time or another. Time you learned who your friends are. I might be the only friend you have soon.”
It was an odd thing to say, thought Jack. But now he was certain at what he needed to do. He started to push past Angelo but was stopped cold.
“What are you doing?’
“The right thing, Angelo. Now let go of me!”
But Angelo held him fast. Jack fought to pull away and instinctively pushed back against the man. Suddenly Angelo was falling, crying out as he fell back against the sidewalk. Behind them the assembly announcements stopped. Several rushed over, stepping between Jack and Angelo still sprawled on the ground.
“Jack?” one of the protesters recognized him immediately, looking at Jack as if he was possessed.
“It isn’t what it looks…”
“I’m all right,” said Angelo when someone tried to help him up. “Just keep him away from me.”
“You are the one…” Jack began to accuse, but was quickly cut off.
“Enough from both of you,” said another protester. “I’m sorry, but you are both banned from Occupy. We can’t have this shit, especially not now. If either of you are spotted anywhere near Occupy we will notify the police.”
Angelo’s performance was worthy of an Oscar. He played it perfectly until he turned and walked away and disappeared along Michigan. Jack, for his part was crushed at the injustice, but knew it was pointless to argue the point. The stakes for Occupy were far too high. He looked away, fighting emotion and realized his reputation in the activist community would be tarnished and perhaps ruined far beyond this movement.

About 900poundgorilla

W.C. Turck is a Chicago playwright and the author of four widely acclaimed books.His latest is "The Last Man," a prophetic novel of a world ruled by a single corporation. His first novel, "Broken: One Soldier's Unexpected Journey Home," was reccommended by the National Association of Mental Health Institutes. His 2009 Memoir, "Everything for Love" chronicled the genocide in Bosnia and the siege of Sarajevo. His third book "Burn Down the Sky" is published exclusively on Amazon Kindle. It was in Sarajevo at the height of the siege where he met and married his wife, writer and Artist Ana Turck. FOX NEWS, ABC, CBS News, the Chicago Tribune and The Joliet Herald covered their reunion after the war. He helped organized relief into Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. Turck has been a guest on WMAQ-TV, WLS in Chicago, WCPT, WBBM radio, National Public Radio, Best Of the Left and the Thom Hartmann show. He has spoken frequently on Human Rights, Genocide and Nationalism. In 2011, his play in support of the Occupy Movement, "Occupy My Heart-a revolutionary Christmas Carol" recieved national media attention and filled theaters to capacity across Chicago. He remains an activist to the cause of human rights and international peace. View all posts by 900poundgorilla

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