Occupy confronts the bigots

February 6, 2012

OAK BROOK, Ill.--Two dozen Occupy Chicago and other protesters braved the freezing cold and bitter wind on January 28 to show opposition to "SpeakOut Illinois" (SOIL) conference held in this affluent Chicago suburb.

This year's conference, misnamed "Reclaim America for Life," brought out members of over 30 anti-choice, right-wing organizations--including those with ties to Operation Rescue, the notorious anti-abortion group that harasses women at abortion clinics and has documented connections to the man who murdered abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in 2009. Rather than organize for issues crucial to life such as free and quality health care, child care and education, these groups "speak out" against women's lives.

For the second year in a row, Chicago women's rights activists, many of them now part of the newly formed Occupy Chicago Gender Equity Committee (OC-GEC), got together to plan what they called " Occupy SOIL" to demonstrate outside the conference. The ad hoc organizing group brought together students, reproductive health care workers, abortion providers, LGBT activists and socialists to put forward a pro-woman, pro-health care and pro-LGBT message.

The group rallied and chanted for over two hours, and featured speakers from the Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education (CACHE), Join the Impact-Chicago (JTIC), DuPage County NOW, the Illinois Choice Action Team (ICAT), the International Socialist Organization and OC-GEC, all of whom emphasized the need for unapologetic defense of abortion rights and access for all. Other endorsing organizations included the Chicago Abortion Fund and the Revolutionary Communist Party.

One member of OC-GEC read out the group's mission statement:

We reject any and all restrictions to abortion access, equal pay, equal access to housing, health care, child care, and other social services as an outrageous, governmentally sanctioned attack. It is an attack on the people of this country, and particularly minorities and the poor who are disproportionately affected by the closure and curtailment of these services. We view these restrictions of access as both a general assault on society and a targeted assault on women. Education, health care, child care and care for the elderly are collective responsibilities. When these services are denied, women are expected to shoulder the greatest burden, but all of society suffers.

During the rally, numerous conference attendees came out to take photos, or press their faces against the hotel windows to see what all the noise was about--but they didn't dare interfere with the protest. The majority of people driving by showed support for the protest by honking and waving.

Protesters marched through the valet and carport area of the hotel, chanting and holding signs for those in the lobby to see before calling it a day. All groups involved considered the event a success and vowed to continue to confront the anti-abortion zealots whenever and wherever they appear--even in the suburbs, even in the dead of the Chicago winter.

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