Chicago's 1 percent get ready

Occupy Chicago Michael Herbert dissects the city's distortion of its history of brutality and makes an appeal for solidarity during the NATO/G8 protests in May.

Chicago Mayor Rahm EmanuelChicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

THROUGHOUT LAST October, the city of Chicago made more than 300 arrests at Occupy Chicago public assemblies held in Grant Park for violation of city-imposed park curfew ordinances. Since the arrests, the mayor has stepped up his efforts to circumvent the U.S. Constitution through municipal ordinances, beefing up an already unconstitutional parade law to better facilitate the shutting down of any and all political dissent in the city of Chicago.

The stripping of civil liberties to serve the political interests of those in power is disconcerting. But what is more troublesome is the narrative that is being propagated by those in City Hall, through the media, to shroud these attacks on the public in a veil of talk about protecting the public.

In a speech of support for the mayor's latest attack on civil liberties, Ald. Edward Burke championed the supplementation of the "under-resourced" Chicago Police Department through no-bid contracts with third-party security forces to enforce anti-protest laws during the G8 and NATO summits coming to Chicago in May.

Burke went on to capitalize on a classic tool of mass control: a compound of misinformation and fear. Standing before City Hall, he warned of a special "breed of protester" coming to our city and cited the 1968 Democratic National Convention (DNC) as a reminder of what the city can expect come summer.

Burke's warning of the clash implies in no uncertain terms that violence at the DNC was caused by a lack of adequate police intervention. This conflicts with a thorough report on the events surrounding the DNC submitted by the Chicago Study Team (CST) to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence in December 1969.

The report cites the prohibition of public assembly in the city of Chicago leading up to the convention. Permits for protest were denied, often with the claim of conflicts with the same Chicago park curfew ordinances that were used to lock up Occupiers today. In the days before the DNC, Walter Cronkite reported to the world, "The Democratic convention is about to begin in a police state. There just doesn't seem to be any other way to say it."

What followed is described in the CST report as five consecutive days and nights of:

unrestrained and indiscriminate violence...often inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order [and] made no threat...[and] included peaceful demonstrators, onlookers, and large numbers of residents who were simply passing through, or happened to live in, the areas where confrontations were occurring.

The report goes on to state that this violence was inflicted on the public by a police force that far outnumbered protesters. Burke's call for more strict anti-protest laws and an outsourced security force, unaccountable to the taxpayers of Chicago, in order to prevent a repeat of the 1968 police riots is comparable to making a call to line the city with dry timber and kindling to prevent a repeat of the Great Chicago Fire.

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SO WHAT'S under the veil? A global populist movement rising up against socioeconomic injustice.

For too long, the people have watched wealthy policymakers send the working class to die in wars that bankrupt our economy while lining the pockets of oil executives and defense contractors who pollute our environment and kill our brothers and sisters across the globe. We have watched Wall Street's predatory lending and credit default swaps sink us into an economic crisis--only to be rewarded by those responsible for protecting the public against such abuses.

The productivity of the U.S. working class has increased eight times as quickly as workers' wages since 1979. In that time, the income of the 1 percent has increased 240 percent. We see the class gap continue to rapidly expand while half of our country lives in poverty or close to it, and 8.3 percent of us are out of work according to understated official statistics. While our millionaire politicians enjoy the best health care on the planet, the system they have created for the rest of us ranks 37th in the world.

While the 1 percent plans its attacks on the working class from high-rise conference rooms and state buildings across the world, we stand against them in the streets of our cities. We routinely assemble in public places to host teach-ins and demonstrations against austerity measures that funnel tax money out of social services and into the pockets of the executives of multimillion-dollar corporations like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), Sarah Lee and CNA Insurance.

Last year, these three companies took home $34.5 million in tax breaks from the city of Chicago while the mayor's budget will limit hours at the Chicago Public Library system, shut down half the city's mental-health clinics, and lay off 98 emergency dispatch personnel to free up $21.8 million from the city budget.

The much-needed tax dollars funneled out of the commons and into the bank accounts of these three corporations was 60 percent more than what was saved by laying off the working people of Chicago and slashing the social programs they depend on. Each of these three companies belong to a powerful alliance called World Business Chicago, a virtual "who's who" of Chicago's 1 percent.

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IT'S FAIR to say that World Business Chicago has a vested interest in an agenda that limits the right to protest in the city of Chicago and escalates police intervention during the summits through no-bid contracts for third-party security forces. Last month, due to pressure created by public anti-austerity campaigns organized by local activists, the CME and CNA both wiped their hands clean of their handouts from the corrupt Tax Increment Financing system, returning $28 million to the city of Chicago.

The CME even reported the Occupy movement as a "risk factor" in the liability section of its regulatory 10-Q filing released in November. Furthermore, as World Business Chicago serves as the host committee for the NATO and G8 summits, its board members stand to make a lot of money at the expense of the civil rights and safety of the people of Chicago.

It is not a trivial observation that Boeing, the third largest defense contractor on the planet, has a seat on the board of directors. If World Business Chicago were in need of a friend in the City Council to push through a friendly agenda, it would have to look no further than its chairman, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a man with a reputation of "getting the job done."

Emanuel has created a self-fulfilling prophecy. There will indeed be an ominous "rare breed" coming to Chicago to incite violence in May. But they will not be holding signs of protest or marching in the streets. They will be attending lavish dinners, staying in fancy hotels, and being guarded by military forces paid for by our tax dollars, while we are in the streets being beaten, shot at and locked up.

As you watch this on television, remember this: We are not hoodlums or criminals. We are members of your community who will no longer wait for the system to solve the problems it was designed to perpetuate. We are your teachers, your family, your neighbors and coworkers. Stand with us.