Report from Chicago Spring: ICE and FTP – On Coalitions and Diversity of Tactics
What is striking about Chicago Spring is the extensive use of coalitions built over the past seven months to increase the impact of a protest. Each protest involves a coalition of national, city-wide, and neighborhood groups contributing to the number of protesters. For the immigrant rights protest against the arbitrary actions of of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and immigration judges who issue deportation orders, a neighborhood church congregation (Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission) called for the action, Occupy Chicago helped boost attendance from folks in town for the protest against NATO with its “week of direct action” prior to the summit, and national organizations like World Can’t Wait turned out their local supporters.
The second thing to notice is what “diversity of tactics” means in practice in Chicago. The basic tactic was a march from Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission of 100 people to the immigration court building at the corner of Van Buren and Canal. Around 75 additional protesters waited for their arrival. Shortly after noon, the arrival looked like this.
The second tactic was to hold a loud rally and picketing action, beginning with the statement of Father Landaverde about the reasons for the protest:
At the high point of this rally, Father Landaverde called for those so moved to join him in a sit-in blocking the Van Buren Street entrance to the lobby of the immigration courts. This tactic, a statement of principle was also bait for the local media. How many times do you see a clergyman arrested for principle these days?
Coalitions bring a diversity of styles of statement of the issues. Amid the pleas for justice are criticisms of the system itself.
While the sit-in at the Van Buren Street entrance was drawing the attention of the police and the media, an independent group of primarily Occupy Chicago people moved to block the Canal Street entrance and pressed signs (“No Human is Illegal” was one) against the lobby windows.
Protest is theater and at some point comes to a climax if it is effective. These days, eventually the building owner asks the police to disperse the crowd and eventually the police arrest someone to enforce this order. Father Landaverde and another protester sitting in at the Van Buren entrance were arrested and taken to a paddy wagon. This is the 1960s civil rights movement script of the climax. It involves a statement of the resolve to stand ones ground. And to be predictable.
Instead of just dispersing, Occupy Chicago left and immediately lined up in the crosswalk, blocking traffic on Canal Street. Having seized the street, they started marching north on Canal Street chanting a variety of familiar Occupy slogans as the Chicago Police Department bicycle squad scrambled to catch up and, using a line of stationary bicycle officers, guide the protesters around the corner into Jackson Street. During the march down Jackson Street, two were arrested and the protest ended. This is the Occupy script of the climax. It involves as statement of resolve to keep the movement moving. And to be unpredictable.
The Chicago Principles statement of “diversity of tactics” specifies that there be time and space separation of high risk and low risk tactics. How this works in practice is best seen in the Fuck the Police (FTP) march on Halsted Street from 51st Street (near one police precinct) to 31st Street (near a second police precinct) and well beyond CTA’s Halsted Orange Line rail transit station.
The action was not called by the Occupy Chicago General Assembly nor was it endorsed by the Occupy Chicago General Assembly. It was not publicized except apparently by phone texting among trusted networks. It was divorced in space and time from any other Occupy Chicago action taking place as a part of the Chicago Spring. Its apparent purpose was to seize the streets from the police over an extended stretch of territory from a high-crime neighborhood (Englewood) to a neighborhood with a high proportion of police as neighbors (Bridgeport). It succeeded in that, but not without incident. Apparently, one protester took a punch at an older man who was in his face, and in the morning it was clear that at least a bank had it’s windows cracked. And there were in the morning local residents lamenting “Why is it that they hit the small businesses?”
The action itself reportedly was a running march dodging CPD bicycle squads positioning bicycles so as to force the march back to the sidewalks through abrupt and unpredictable changes of direction.
It drew on an implicit coalition of folks in these neighborhoods who feel that they have been fucked by the police, drawing attention to abusive police behavior that is a frequent occurrence in some Chicago neighborhoods. And it came on the same day that the City of Chicago announced that officers from other police departments would be allied with them in policing the NATO Summit,