CHICAGO - Voices for peace, justice, impeachment, and freedom gathered for a permitted march from downtown Chicago to a park on the outskirts of downtown. The march dissipated at the end of the march, but those voices which had gathered refused to end their night there.
The permitted march was planned by the M20 Coalition in Chicago. For two months (at least), meetings were held and groups like 8th Day Center for Justice; Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice; American Friends Service Committee / Truth in Military Recruitment; American Muslims For Palestine; ANSWER Chicago; Arab American Action Network; Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War; Chicago Area CodePINK; Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, Chicago Labor Against the War; Chicago Media Action, Chicago No War On Iran Coalition; Chicago Progressive Alliance, Chicago World Cant Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime!, Cook County Green Party, National Lawyers Guild - Chicago Chapter, Neighbors for Peace; Nicaragua Solidarity Network, North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice, South Siders for Peace, UIC Students for a Democratic Society; Voices for Creative Non-Violence, and Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ (and more who were not normally present at the regular meetings to plan March 19th but who were endorsers).
A rally featuring Kathy Kelly, IVAW members (a few who were present at Winter Soldier), Morton West students, a member of the Mexican Solidarity Network and more was held as people gathered on the Federal Plaza. The rally lasted one hour and then people took off down the street to make their voices heard.
The march headed west of the Loop and then wound back towards Michigan Ave. The marchers headed north to an end that is accurately described by OB Rag like this:
CHICAGO - March 19, 2008 - Police officers, in riot gear and on horses, were ready. The protesters seemed ready to take a stand.They numbered in the thousands. The Bench does not have an official estimate, but a guess is well over 10,000 people marched north along Michigan Avenue. They started with a rally and speeches at 5:00 p.m., then walked from Dearborn and Monroe to Walton and Dearborn. It was loud, boisterous and peaceful. But the ending was a cliff hanger. It looked like a riot might break out, and the Chicago Police were not backing down.
The protesters arrived at their destination, between Oak Street and Walton Street on N. Dearborn, just off of Chicago’s famous Rush Street bar district, at approximately 8:30 p.m. There, they chanted and sang and danced. It was approximately 8:30 p.m. The police patiently looked on from the sidewalks as the protesters commanded the streets.After 15 to 20 minutes, the police attempted to clear the road. But, unexpectedly, a red headed young woman refused to move. Police officers tried to negotiate with her for about 10 minutes.
All the while, a dozen or so drummers beat a frantic tempo, appropriate to the tense moments. A man who identified himself as her attorney told The Bench that she insisted her name not be released, even though bloggers and major news outlets alike were taking her photograph. Eventually, she relinquished and it looked as though the crowd would break up. That’s not what happened.
The crowd moved in tighter along the street, refusing to allow police and street sweepers move through. About 60 police in riot gear stood just off to the side, ready. Another dozen mounted police lined up on Walton, facing north toward the protesters. Now the tension was very high. The mounted police did not blink, they did not advance. Their very presence was enough for the sensible in the crowd, and after about 10 minutes the crowd dispersed. Almost.
Suddenly, there was the red headed woman again, standing near a man who was laying in the middle of the street. Cameras moved in, tight shots. The mounted police still stood motionless, ready. A police officer calmly spoke to the man. He did not move for a few more moments, then got to his knees, and was helped to his feet by two officers.
The man turned to his left and embraced one of the officers, who returned the gesture. People cheered, and what may have been an ugly scene became a happy ending.
The situation was very tense and there was a fear within the police force that they were going to have to break this thing up. While some were reluctant, there were a few police there ready to take out their billy club and use "necessary force" to clear the street.
The scene at the end of the march in the street did not mark the end of a night of protest in Chicago. Voices (primarily young voices between 16-30) for peace, justice, impeachment, and freedom took off on a march down the sidewalk that the police did not plan on having to follow.
Police flanked the group all the way to Chicago Avenue and Michigan Avenue near Water Tower Place where the voices stopped and disrupted traffic at an intersection. The group of between 50-70 marched around the intersection completely twice before the police and traffic management authority could not take the disruption any longer.
The police placed their bicycles on the sidewalk in a fashion that blocked the voices for peace, justice, impeachment, and freedom in limiting their options for marching as an organized force. But the police did not move in quick enough and the voices chose to engage in resistance and sit down in the middle of an intersection.
The resistance blocked two of the four lanes of traffic on the road. Police redirected while police boxed the resisters in. A member of the group called for the resistance to get up and head back to the sidewalk. Unfortunately, people did not all go to one area.
The police succeeded in dividing and conquering a group that could have done some serious resistance to call attention to the war and occupation.
The voices for peace, justice, impeachment, and freedom walked back in the direction they had came from and then did a U-turn and headed back towards the intersection they had been disrupting. The group crossed the street and took off for the loop.
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