Chicago shuts up 1 percenters

November 16, 2011

Matt Camp reports on how organizing by Occupy activists stopped a lecture by Condoleezza Rice and Goldman Sachs Henry Paulson before it started.

OCCUPY CHICAGO won a victory on November 14 when the University of Chicago was forced to cancel a scheduled lecture from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and ex-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

The event attracted the negative attention of activists across Chicago, including the city's burgeoning Occupy movement, which planned a "mic check" for the two Republicans.

"Mic check" refers to the activist method of disseminating information by listeners repeating and amplifying the words of a speaker. It recently gained popularity as a disruptive tactic, a fact to which victims Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Republican House Leader Eric Cantor can attest after they were "mic checked" during recent visits to Chicago.

The University of Chicago announced on its website that Rice and Paulson's presentations had been canceled "due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict"--but many wondered if the "conflict" actually lay in the university's plans to hold the event, and Occupy Chicago's plans to shut it down.

Occupy Chicago holds a General Assembly at the University of Chicago after scaring off Condoleezza Rice and Henry Paulson
Occupy Chicago holds a General Assembly at the University of Chicago after scaring off Condoleezza Rice and Henry Paulson (Avi Schwab)

The truth is this: When threatened with a disruption organized by a movement that rejects the entirety of what they stand for, Paulson and Rice simply threw in the towel.

The two former Bush administration officials epitomize everything Occupy stands against. As elite guardians for the 1 percent, their politics are antithetical to the values of the Occupy movement and the 99 percentit represents.

During her tenure at secretary of state, Rice personified the Bush administration's war-mongering foreign policy. She was a primary culprit in poisoning American political dialogue with Islamophobic rhetoric. Rice demonized as naturally adverse to democracy those from whom Occupy has drawn its inspiration: the Arab people.

As treasury secretary, Paulson oversaw the first mass infusion of taxpayer dollars into the collapsing financial giants of 2008.

The effective derailing of the lecture represents a victory for Occupy Chicago, which has had to struggle for its right to exist. Over the past month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has overseen two mass arrests conducted against Occupy activists involving more than 300 people. Emanuel's administration has also unambiguously denied the movement's right to a permanent space to occupy.

Shutting down the Rice/Paulson event shows that people power matters--that in the harmony of thousands of outraged voices calling for justice and democracy, the high-handed and parasitic yawps of Rice and Paulson have no place.

In May 2012, the NATO/Group of 8 summit is scheduled to come to the Windy City. Shutting down that event won't be so easy, but with this victory under their belt, we can be sure that the voices of Occupy Chicago will echo around the world.

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