They began gathering in Grant Park before dawn before marching to the Mayor’s home on the north side of the city. Five hundred or so took over the street to make their demands known directly to the Mayor, without allowing him the insulation and isolation of city hall. They closed down the street shouted their life and death grievances to the Mayor’s empty home, surrounded by police in riot gear, shaming him to his neighbors. That done they turned back towards downtown to join their brothers and sisters marching against the injustice of the three activists being held on trumped-up terrorism charges.
Tim and Beth Alberts were just posing for wedding photographs when the protesters passed. Beth, scooping up the trail of her white dress, her bridesmaids, aghast at the audacity of the protesters to intrude and spoil her picture-perfect wedding, snarled. Beth threw a fit.
“Dumb bitch,” remarked Blaze, as he and Rebel Rose sat on the wall beside the river. Rebel reached across her lap top and smacked him in the head. He howled, but more for surprise than pain. “What was…?”
“That’s for being an asshole,” said Rose. “It’s her wedding, you idiot.”
“Look at her and her perfect Clark Kent husband, with that limo and, clearly there one percenters.”
“You can’t just say everybody in the one percent is evil.” She frowned and pounded out some long string of code into her laptop. Like Blaze, her fingers were working madly, her mind, her eyes taking in the dozens of boxes and lines of code filling her screen, with all the minute concentration of a musician riffing on a line of music. It was reactive, intuitive, her mind and body at one with the spectacular rush of images before her. Indeed, she was almost in a trance.
“What do you care for those people anyway?” Blaze remarked almost warily over the prospect of another swipe by Rose.
“You can’t just shit on people,” she scolded. “They had a right to their life.”
“What are we here for then?”
“Remind them of their responsibility.”
Blaze leaned into the screen of his computer. “What’s this?”
“I got jack buying three cars last week from some scumbag suburban used car place.”
“Yeah but I got like a dozen calls by our mister Angelo/Carrera. So I did a little search. Seems the previous owner was indicted on all these organized crime things.”
“And?” Rose said with typical impatience, “or do I have to smack you again?”
“The old man went to jail. His son runs the place now.”
“What the hell would Angelo want with three cars in Jack’s name?” Rose pondered, then pulled out her cellphone. “I have to call Eva.”
By four there was again a standoff on the Michigan Avenue bridge, the police preventing the marchers from crossing to the so-called Magnificent Mile, to the consumptive shrines of Water Tower Place, Neiman Marcus , Nike and H & M. tensions were peaking now. Jessie Jackson Junior appealed for non-violence
“We learned from Dr. King in Birmingham,” he told those gathered. “We can’t afford to have out message hijacked by acts of provocation.”
Turning, they marched south chanting, “Who’s streets? Our streets!” Bringing Michigan Avenue to a halt. Their thousands swarmed over the street, flanked by police. They would fight for those long-held and bloodily fought for civil rights, even if those they fought for her stoic or hostile to the effort.
At 18th street the police halted the march, refusing to let them pass. Emotions rose in proportion, a hand full of protesters refused to be turned back. A brief scuffles ensued at the curb. Suddenly a man emerged from within the police ranks, red-faced and taunting the gathered protesters. Middle-aged, with a military style haircut, dressed in plain clothes, he very obviously intended to intimidate the protesters and drive a confrontation that would justify a heavy-handed response against the twenty-five hundred marchers. He stood solidly among their ranks. Not a single officer, no Sergeant or lieutenant made the least effort to curtail or control him.
“Come over here, goddamnit!” he screamed drawing a mix of reactions from the officers lining the street. “I’ll fuckin’ kill you! Come on! Come on!”
“Come on!” the man screamed, as cameras and cellphones arose like a digital jury that would be spread around the planet in moments. “I’ll take you all! Come on, goddamnit!”
More activists chanted, “We love you” and “peace, man.”
The police fully intended to control and direct the movement, which led to several scuffles but no arrests. The news would later describe that batteries and bottles were thrown at police, which was a complete fabrication. Some yelled epithets at the police, but they were marginalized and very few and far between. In truth, most of the police were polite and professional, the protesters, controlled and determined. It was a testament to their professionalism, as sad and unjust as their assigned mission was.
The sun was a force, playing heavily on the marchers and police alike, the temperatures soaring to more than ninety. Among the protesters, veterans of all of the recent wars back to Vietnam, ACLU monitors, human rights witnesses, and nurses. Overhead, police and military helicopters hovered, keeping a watchful eye. The military state, the willing dupes of a corporate oligarchy, flexed its muscle making it clear that rights were merely a tolerance of the state, the constitution a fool’s pursuit, as the state had rendered it meaningless, butchering those ignoble words by statutes with suicidal words like “safety” and “public order.”
All across the city the corporate propagandists in the media continued the steady drumbeat denouncing the protests. Again and again they complained that the movement did not stand for anything, or stood for too much all at once. These were tactics to obscure a message they had no intention of hearing, let along reporting. The media focused relentlessly on hope for violence. WBBM’s John Cody brought a near sexual obsession in his unwavering focus on the specter of violence.
What was interesting is how the freedom of speech could be so easily ignored, or worse, that the media would completely turn a blind ear from the protests, and how to accomplish that so fully for their corporate masters that violence became its singular focus. It was a partnership with the police and city hall, and more importantly by NATO that aided the ultimate strategy, which was to obscure and conceal any truths about what was being discussed in those private meetings. What did get out was highly polished edited and crafted reports fully in keeping with the same state-controlled messaging that characterized the Miloshevich regime in Serbia during the Balkan wars on the Nineties.
Where were the tea parties? Where was the NRA, and the second amendment types? Simply the suggestion of photo IDs for gun owners brought them into the streets by the…dozens? They claimed it would not keep guns out of the hands of criminals, but each state requires a driver’s license even though that doesn’t stop car thieves. But they were silent on this staggering assault first amendment predicted instead the negotiability of their rights as well, for the state, and corporate governance was eroding all American’s civil liberties. It begged the question that if a populace so lazy and indifferent to the loss of those rights, do they deserve them at all?
At State and Harrison the protesters attempted a march on the jail holding the three now accused of terrorism. So far no proof had been offered by prosecutors, only accusations and the flimsiest sort of hearsay evidence. Suddenly a line of police appeared, blocking their way, and donning riot gear. Some carried shields, most held their wooden truncheons at the ready. Their appearance was so quick, there could be no doubt they were provoking confrontation. Emotions peaked at the police readied clubs and prepared to charge against the tightly massed activists. A bullhorn resound from amid the protest. Everyone braced for an assault by the police.
“Mic check!” the speaker began, as hundreds repeated, their voices resounding among the tall buildings. “We are asking the CPD to stand aside. Let us pass. We wish to protest against the illegal arrest of our brothers and petition for their immediate release!”
The police edged forward and clashed briefly with a dozen or so protesters attempting to breach the blockade and assert their rights to redress a grievance. A call went up to link arms and hundreds formed solid ranks facing truncheons and armored officers. This, this was the assertion of the god-given rights that the Right wing talks about but doesn’t support in practice. This was the push back against a complete surrender to corporate power to bully and rule the nation. This was but one battle for the life of the nation.
He didn’t know it, but if Eva couldn’t figure what Angelo and the Koffers were up to, he had only hours to live and the heavy hand of the law would fall mercilessly upon the movement…