Occupy Chicago, others elated and still plan city marches
By David Heinzmann and John Chase
Protesters gearing up for Chicago’s spring gathering of world leaders cheered the news that the G-8 summit is being moved to Camp David while maintaining that the city would remain a major magnet for demonstrators during that weekend’s NATO gathering.
About 30 people showed up at Occupy Chicago headquarters for a regularly scheduled meeting where Monday’s developments were suddenly a main topic of debate.
“I don’t think we alone are the cause but I think we can take some credit,” said Andy Thayer, a protest organizer who called President Barack Obama’s G-8 decision “a victory for our side.”
Out-of-town protesters noted the summits are two months away and said demonstrators already have committed to their plans.
“Most of us have already gotten time off,” said Chris Wahmhoff, an Occupy organizer in Kalamazoo, Mich. “We’re more than prepared for it.”
“NATO and G-8 work together. They are partnering in a war and poverty agenda,” said Thistle Pettersen, 43, of Madison, Wis., who plans to bicycle to Chicago with a group of demonstrators even with Monday’s announcement. “I don’t think people are going to cancel their bus reservations just because the war-makers are going to be there but the poverty-makers aren’t.”
The NATO meeting still is scheduled for May 20-21 in Chicago. Thayer said NATO is the “military arm” of the G-8 and that Monday’s decision is likely to fire up even more people to come to Chicago because they have tasted victory.
“There’s no way to spin this (other) than as a major defeat for the mayor,” Thayer said of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had been touting the twin summits for months. “Victories like this have a tendency to energize people. It shows protest works.”
Indeed, after the meeting some of the protest leaders went to the Daley Center for a victory party. At 9 p.m., about two dozen people began chanting “na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, G-8, goodbye,” at the start of the party.
For months, members of the Occupy movement and other protest groups, which include some radical members, have made the Chicago meetings a challenge and rallying call, setting a goal of bringing 50,000 protesters to Chicago.
Lucas Vereline, 31, said the lack of a G-8 summit could mean some protesters will head to the Washington area instead.
“Realistically, this will mean less people because they’ll go to Camp David,” he said. “But our energy will be the same. And I’d still like them to come here and talk to us and talk to each other about the issues that concern us.”
One of the major demonstrations planned for the original May 19-21 summit weekend was a march organized by the California Nurses Association, a union that has been a mainstay of the Occupy movement, to be held May 18, the day before G-8 started. Spokesman Chuck Idelson said it was too early to say whether the demonstration would be moved or canceled.
Thayer holds a city permit for what was to be the main formal demonstration of the weekend, a march that Saturday, the first day of G-8. He said groups will tinker with their demonstration plans rather than abandon them. “We’re going to have a quick consultation to see whether we need to move our demonstration from the 19th to the 20th.”
In St. Louis, the Occupy movement is getting ready for a Midwestern conference next week at which protesting the Chicago summits is a major agenda item.
“I put this in the win column,” said Zach Chasnoff, a spokesman for Occupy St. Louis. “If the intent was to stop that conference from happening in May, then it’s been done way in advance of May.”