Wednesday night, in the Rogers Park neighborhood on Chicago’s north side a packed house warmly welcomed a local comic James Fritz to the Mayne Stage Theater on Morse. Merely the mention of Occupy, on everyone’s tongue across the city brought an eruption of cheers and applause from the 500 or so in attendance. Fritz was an equal opportunity critic, a fundamental difference, and a distinguishing characteristic of those on the Occupy Left. No cult of personality as with Bush previously, or ever-changing support and equivocating beliefs, as with the latest crop of Republican candidates. Fritz went for the throat with his jokes, including Democrat Barack Obama.
“George Bush seriously fucked this country, but Barack Obama destroyed the abstract concept of hope!” he said deadpan, drawing roaring laughter, claps and whistles. “But it’s our fault too. We get this close to real institutional change and then get distracted by $4 dollar footlongs at Subway.”
Jamie Kilstein followed with a blistering set, riffing on breathless tirades of absolute, sometimes shocking brilliance. It was a perfect night, the weather warming to a nearly perfect summer weekend, causing someone in the movement to joke, that by Texas Governor Rick Perry’s standards, that sort of weather meant “god” supported Occupy too.
Still the city braced, holding its breath as the tension mounted and fears grew. It was entirely a fabrication of the media, still doing its duty to drown out any coherent message from the movement. When they did talk to protesters it was condescending, argumentative, mocking, or was fixated on the odder fringe elements of the movement or those who were not media savvy.Amy Jacobsen, at Salem owned WIND slobbered with alarm, blurting in a voice reminding one of cigarette and gin laced overindulgence that there were“all kinds of anarchists here. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a suicide bomber!”
They had downtown workers terrified of the so-called “black block” protesters, as if they were demons coming to lay waste to the city and fall upon the innocent. Inflated beyond reality, the black block was more a tactic in overcoming tactics meant to trap them against illegal detention or assault. Likewise there were warnings about so-called “Hacktivists,” coming to steal information via WiFi connections.
By early morning on Thursday, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans against war were joined by protesters and reporters at the Vietnam War memorial on Wacker Drive, intending to return their Global War on Terrorism medals, calling NATO irresponsible and unworthy of their sacrifice. One Army Ranger said he’d lost faith that NATO was on the side of freedom in Afghanistan after personally being part of the endless night raids terrifying women and children in vain searches for weapons and insurgents. WLS hosts mocked and belittled Debra Sweet of www.worldcantwait.net. To undermine her case for peace and reason and justice the hosts fully accepted everything the government and military had to say about “terrorists, a hypocrisy given their other talking point was how poor the government was in comparison to exalted corporations and big business. News anchor Ron Magers boasted, “I’m particularly proud to be called a media whore for corporate America.”
But this was background for what Jack Murphy faced. He couldn’t know as he and Deacon went warily along South Michigan Avenue, Angelo was finalizing a deal with a white-supremacist group in Indiana for more than 80 unregistered weapons, a thousand rounds of ammunition and six pounds of plastic explosives. The three vehicles he’d purchased a few days before were parked behind a barn on the small rural farm. For that, and for delivering the vehicles to specified locations in Chicago the six men who made up the group, bitter hicks who desperately wished to be taken seriously by anyone, were paid handsomely. Now all that remained was to squeeze a few informants to find Jack.
Angelo felt sure that Jack would reach out to someone, and the safest way would be via email. That was easy enough to trace. As soon as he did, Angelo would lure Jack into position, using Eva as bait. Everything was moving into place. As for the police, Angelo had no worries. Even if they caught up with Jack first, the vehicles would be in place, and would, from a very anonymous tip be discovered by the police before the protest began. He needed of course to get something tying him directly to the vehicles in Jack’s hands. That was the optimum solution. Either way, the authorities and media would paint a picture of Occupy as an insurgent organization. The evidence would be clear. Rand would put through the bill in congress, Romney would surge in the polls as Obama would be impugned and as complicit, using past statements supporting Occupy. Koffer would get what he wished and Angelo, AKA Ryan Carrera would retire a wealthy man.
Angelo turned off the Dan Ryan expressway at 35th street on the way back from Indiana. It was a perfect day, as perfect as the good lord allowed. Silken clouds teased a blue sky. A silken breeze washed away the heat of busy downtown streets, but did nothing to still the passions of dozens of protesters on bikes gathering in from of Bank of America at the headquarters.
He was stopped at the light at Michigan and 26th, not far from where the largest protest would take place on Sunday. In the lot beside the limestone Trinity Episcopal Church, protesters had all begun to gather. A week ago Angelo had questioned his lot in all this, now it was all too far along, and it was simpler just to be done with it. Seeing only the money, he had turned, changed and was darker for it. Now he only had contempt for those your and excitable activists. Their foolishness about peace and brotherhood and democracy were naïve. Angelo asserted peace was for the weak and pathetic, brotherhood was for fools and democracy were for those who still believed in the first two.
He’d almost missed the two men crossing against the light. The smaller of the two had his head down a blue baseball cap pulled down. The guy caught Angelo’s attention for the simple reason that he was trying a bit too hard not to be noticed. The light was green and Angelo might have simply brushed the guy off as just another odd character in this tough south side neighborhood. But the cabbie behind Angelo was hardly as patient and leaned hard on his horn. The man in the blue cap looked up for just an instant, but in that flash Angelo recognized Jack.
He went through the light, coolly keep an eye on the men in his mirror. A block or so up Angelo stopped and pulled to the curb. He crept along slowly, keeping the better part of a block between them. When they turned into a small branch library, Angelo pulled a laptop from beneath the passenger seat, opened it up and logged into Eva’s email account. He didn’t have to wait long.
The message was short and vague, should anyone be listening. “Need to see you now. Your favorite lunch place last summer. Tomorrow at noon. Best French fries. Come alone.”
Angelo pulled away. Everything was coming together just as he’d hoped.
There was a folk singer at the headquarters on La Salle. Bicycle activists trickled to the corner two and three at a time until, ogled by hopelessly bored television cameramen busied themselves with creative shots of dozens of bicycles lined up along the sidewalk. In short order, creating havoc on the lumbering newsmen, the protesters were off, followed by police on bikes. They headed for the Prudential building and joined in protest with the veterans, now appealing directly to Obama’s campaign headquarters. Just as the news caught up, the protesters were off again, now to WLS studios on State Street to protest the bile and vitriolic hate of Rush Limbaugh.
As evening fell, the downtown streets slowly emptied of the much heralded Chicago Spring. There was a heavy police presence still, but it was calmer, the officers lingering in small groups without real purpose to that presence. Most went on about their evening. The protesters mostly had retreated for the night
On Clark Street on the north side, along that always hectic street of eclectic shops and small bars, and in the shadow of Wrigley Field, more progressives gathered to kick off a congressional campaign for the Illinois Fifth District. In the basement lounge at the suitably dark and elegant Blokes and Birds, Nancy Wade, a former Occupy and community activist stepped forward to put her passions into practice. A educator of twenty-two years, a mother of two, Wade was hardly the caricature of activists cartooned in the media. Elegant in a black suit Wade warmly addressed twenty or so supporters and friends.
“The mainstream media reflects the interests of its corporate masters,” she said. “But if you’re concerned about creeping corporatism and the erosion of our civil liberties, then it is time for a change.”
Running as a member of the Green party, fully supporting LGBT rights, championing environmental issues, and first amendment issues, Wade was after the seat of a “go along to get along democrat named Quigley. But a win for Wade here would resonate strongly, as this was the district formerly occupied by the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel.
A few miles away Eva sat down and pulled up her email for the first time that day. The television was on to the evening news. Eva ignored it and scrolled through the messages, stopping on one in particular. Her heart leapt when she saw Jack’s name. hands trembling, a sudden wave of emotion swept over her. Tears tumbled across her cheeks as she read the simple message again and again. Buried within it was hope, and a thousand memories of their life before all of this. Tears tumbled across her cheeks and a gasp escaped her lips.
She hit the delete key and the message disappeared, but lingered in her heart. She still couldn’t make the connection to all of this and Koffer Industries. Something caught her attention on the television. Wiping away tears, Eva turned, suddenly riveted to the news. She recognized Congressman Rand right away. Everyone knew him well enough by now, a firebrand who craved attention. The camera crew had caught him coming out of a downtown office. She didn’t recognize the building at first.
“…are damned lucky I’m not the mayor or the police superintendent,” said Rand bitterly. “I wouldn’t bend over backwards with these trouble makers. If one window is broken in this city Sunday I will introduce legislation Monday morning…”
The crew followed him down the street and Eva suddenly recognized the building. It was Koffer Industries. Like a bolt of lightning, the breath was sucked from her lungs. She stood and went to the television, as if not quite believing what was coming together in her mind. The pieces suddenly fit and she knew. And then there was another realization and she knew everything. This time it came out as a gasp and the icy horror spreading through her…