Sunday, May 28th, 9:35pm. It came about at the last-minute, a slapped together fundraiser on a sweltering night for several of those arrested at the NATO protest melee. There were others who were facing felony charges, one for stabbing a police officer in the leg. Like any fight, there was plenty for each side to be ashamed of, and to accuse the otherside for. But that night, at Cary’s Lounge on Devon Avenue, there was irony in that this all had an almost jovial sense, almost as if there was some odd sense of relief that it was finally over.
Outside, the street was crowded in this mostly Middleeastern and Indian neighborhood. Traffic was bumper to bumper, like one might expect a holiday weekend to be in say, Dehli or Lahore. Those immigrant faces gathered in groups along the street, joined in conversation, or walked as families and friends. Usmania, the restaurant across the street was packed with diners, as was the cheaper “peasant” middle eastern diner, Gahreeb Nawaz, up the street. next door to Cary’s, shoppers crowded at the counter of a Halal Muslim meat market, their forms blended beneath pale yellow lights and the dust and city grime of the windows.
Monday after the protest, several hundred marched on Boeing headquarters downtown, several dozen covering themselves in oil for a ceremonial die-in on the street in front of the building. Police nearly outnumbered the protesters. Hardly testimony to the state of the movement as much as many of those from outside the city had gone home as the NATO summit ended. Remaining were the core activists of the movement. The downtown was all but deserted that day. The media had done its job properly enough that most people stayed home and worked for fear of the violence the news people had hyped for weeks.
That morning Jack awakened in his own bed after a fitful sleep. He was staring at the ceiling, a torrent of emotions raging in his heart. Eva was asleep beside him, a place he’d realized that he’d taken for granted far too much. Jeffrey was asleep in his arms. The boy had erupted in a scream the night before when Jack walked in, as if it was Christmas. Jack had called is boss at home just before midnight trying in some way to explain all this. She stopped him, and said there was nothing to explain, and that if he needed a few days to sort things out that his job was still there.
All that mattered now was that he was home. All Jack Murphy cared about was that he was with Jeffrey and Eva once more. Everything else would sort itself out. He had to believe that.
Lost amid news of the presidential campaign, the JP Morgan losses, the deaths of singer Donna Summer and Robin Gibb, and police superintendent Garry McCarthy’s media blitz about the overwhelming success of his police in protecting the good citizens of Chicago, was any real news about what had happened behind those closed doors at the NATO summit. Tens and hundreds of billions would be bartered and gifted away without consideration or necessary oversite, while there would continue the call from the Right, acquiesced to by the Left, for more cuts to social programs, education, healthcare and pensions. There was hardly a mention that Congressman Joe Rand would be stepping down due to “health reasons.” There was nothing about Koffer Industries, only the usual blustering by Left-wing hosts who used the Koffers the way Glen beck used Saul Alinsky, except one championed the poor and oppressed, and the others created poverty and promoted oppression.
No charges had been filed, and none were pending. The same went for Ryan Carrera and the two hired snipers. All of them disappeared within the nation’s very same intelligence infrastructure from whence they came. The licenses of the car dealership in Berwyn were pulled by midweek, and the place was abandoned by Friday. The six Indiana men were allowed to plea bargain away the weapons charges, three of them getting sixty days for marijuana found on the farm, the others receiving probation and fines.
As for the police, the city had pressed them into service as virtual slave labor. They’d been fooled into believing the city of Chicago and Mayor Emanuel would honor the contracts. Now they were refusing to pay the overtime and accrued time off prescribed. Occupy Chicago had warned of this very thing. There is always money for war, always money for corporations and always money for banks. The police had accepted the propaganda that Occupy were a bunch of communist hippies. But the police were a part of that much touted 99%. As the dust settled in the wake of NATO they might have believed they were standing on the wrong side of that protest line. The one percent had used them and then slammed the door in their face.
There was a decent crowd at Carey’s Lounge that evening. Andy Thayer, who’d led the protest, stocking his ranks with Occupy Chicago, was established now as something of its leader, something Occupy had long eschewed. To say the protest hadn’t changed Occupy would not have been accurate. It had lost something of itself. All America had lost something of itself that Sunday. Beside him was now the defacto leadership of the movement, supplanting true social activism for something akin to personal vendetta against the authorities. It was valid to a point, but different from what the movement had forged itself into the previous Autumn. Hardly had it accomplished anything during the protests, but the forces arrayed against it were awesome and unprecedented, a coordination between government propaganda and corporate messaging that Joseph Goebbels might only have fantasized about.
The corporate media had no interest in validating the NATO protests. From the beginning, there was an effort to skew the coverage fully in terms of potential violence. They succeeded fully in overwhelming the demands for peace and transparency from the protesters. What little coverage the activists received was mocking, condescending or purposely framed them as confused and unfocused in their ultimate message.
It wasn’t a Left or Right issue. The Left abandoned Occupy just as surely when they realized the movement couldn’t be co-opted into a defacto vote factory that the Democrats could use and bank upon. With the presidential election barely six months away, the Democrats could not afford a true grassroots movement from of and for the people to rob them of badly needed votes. Add to that the undeniable fact that the leadership of the Democratic party was every bit as beholden to corporate interests and big money as the Republicans. Their pandering to progressive positions was simply a marketing strategy.
The headline in Tuesday morning’s Chicago Tribune read: CROWDS TRAPPED AT EVERY TURN, a reference to the police effort to contain and marginalize the anti-NATO protesters. What a wonderful message of the state of American democracy. What a beautiful message to send to future generations. What did the country believe that would ultimately mean for its future?
Beside Andy Thayer was one of those arrested in Bridgeport on the so-called terrorism charges. Before the sixty or so gathered in the bar, he recounted being taken not to jail but to a “black site,” where he’d been cuffed to a wall for twelve hours without water and without being allowed to use the bathroom. Beside him, a girl named Zoe, who’d been living in that apartment until that night.
“I got a call that night that said, ‘don’t come home.’ I haven’t been home since. I can tell you that the charges are bullshit. These were all really good guys, but they got their demons that helped to justify the sixty million spent on NATO security.”
Jack was at the back of the bar, just behind a couple of guys playing a serious game of eight ball. He was nursing a beer.
“We’ve raised almost two thousand dollars,” said Thayer from the crowded little stage in the front window, his muscular form silhouetted by neon beer signs in the window. “Please help us with whatever you can. And again, thank you for all coming out, and thanks again to The Exponential for coming out at the last-minute to play for us tonight.
That was Jack’s cue. He stood up and followed the three other members of the group through the crowded tavern to the stage. Sitting down behind his drum kit, Jack realized there was little justice to be found in all of this. Someone joked from the bar, a guy who’d seen his share of protests back to the 1968 Democratic convention, “What do you mean the revolution won’t be televised?”
Jack smiled thoughtfully. He thought of Deacon and Eva, Jeffrey, Blaze, Rebel Rose and all those who lifted their phones and pointed them at the police as they closed in around him. He might have abandoned all of this after coming so close to losing everything. He might have abandoned Occupy, given his criticisms. Instead, he found community and cause to hope that there were indeed people who cared, and despite the wall of noise the mainstream media proliferated, somehow they managed to find the true.
“No, it won’t be televised,” he said to himself, “but it will be digitized.”