Mayra Carrera, Martin Macias, Jr and Ze Garcia
Occupy Chicago began its occupation on September 23rd, 2011 at Jackson and LaSalle in the heart of the financial district. There was tension with Chicago Police almost instantly but there were eventually some concessions given to the group such as more parking space and no nightsticks busting heads! Since then it has been a kind of chess match between the occupiers and the police.
Members of Occupy Chicago decided to post an open letter to CPD thanking them for certain concessions and embracing Chicago Police as being part of the 99%. This sparked a debate within the OccupyChicago camp and attracted responses nationally especially since the police in other cities have been extremely violent. This is a conversation between First Voice co-producer Ze Garcia and “Sam” who wrote a response to the open letter first on the Anarchist News site.
You can listen to the interview here.
You can go to the Occupy Chicago website for more information. And stay tuned to our site for continuing coverage.Thanks
You can read the letter and the comments here. This is the statement from “Sam” below:
We approach you today from a curious position on the margins of your activity, lingering here because we don’t quite no what to make of you in many respects. We have friends that have been maced and kidnapped by the New York Police Department, and in many ways we are excited about the creation of new spaces in which bonds might be formed in struggle that will take us places further than just a symbolic encampment in the financial district. We have skills, ideas, and energy to make Occupy Chicago a greater force to be reckoned with. We also recognize that those who are a part of Occupy movements around the country are a part of the middle class that is being dismantled by austerity measures being put into place around the country, and have had little experience with conflict. Many want a return to the middle class, for it to be saved. But no such salvation can be delivered to the middle class for an economy in crisis. Instead, as some who have inhabited this dispossession most of our lives, we say: welcome home, but we still have a long way to travel together.
While we see potential in this activity, your general assemblies have drawn lines in the sand that make us reticent to open these lines of communication, and others that have made us cringe. In some respect, there is a good element things we have heard: recognizing that economic crisis is the work of government as a whole and not just one administration or party, that it is not necessarily just a class of greedy capitalists that want our money but rather a whole system that maintains our shitty living conditions, that it is not as much ideology that matters as much as it is activity. And we agree. Yet, this should not be a rally cry for Occupy Chicago to take a neutral position in what is a global war between those who want to manage economic crisis for their own ends and those of us, more and more every day, who have no future in this economic system known as capitalism, no matter how many reforms others call for. Occupy Chicago’s lines, however, do not reflect this struggle. They say, “We are saving America, and all Americans will benefit from restoring economic security and the freedom that America is based on.” For the descendants of the slaves who worked the fields to grow the wealth of this nation-state, for the trans women locked up and trying to survive in men’s prison, for the indigenous people who have survived our long-running genocide against the people who lived on this continent, for the undocumented people who risk deportation every day to survive, for all of abandoned children of a society and economy that never cared about our lives in the first place, these words are empty, and only reinforce that you will stand to preserve this system of benefit for yourself even if it means the continued dispossession of all lives that the democracy and capitalism never cared about unless they could be used for profit.
Worse than this patriotism, however, is the clear line that you’ve drawn in supporting the police. Despite much of the rhetoric about “blue-collar” and “white collar” police, there is no difference in the function of the police in relation to our lives. Whatever collar you may see, there is surely a brownshirt underneath. The police serve to keep those without power in line on a day-to-day basis, and especially when they rise up against systems that keep them in chains. We’ve smelled the tear gas in the air, watched our friends and families thrown to the ground and beaten. This is not police brutality, it is the cold fact that policing as a system defends the wealthy and will use deadly force to do so. And no apologies from police will make this any different. The Chicago Police Department, to whom your General Assembly has decided to extend olive branch, have held guns to our heads since time immemorial. In the first seven months of this year, they murdered 42 people. Between 1972 and 1991, they tortured more than 130 black men in secret jails with impunity. They break up all our fun parties. They turn over our friends to ICE. The CPD do not “make sacrifices” and “take risks” every day to “keep Chicago a safe community,” they risk their lives to murder, imprison, and torture those who refuse to be content with the poverty that this system has given us, and there is no room for friendship with those who seek cordial relations with those who terrorize us to keep us in line.
We know that these statements do not represent everyone currently occupying Chicago. We’ve seen the glazed over look in many participants’ eyes at the General Assemblies and the general lack of enthusiasm about this experiment in democracy. To those participants we say: perhaps we share something in common. The truth of this of course lies in whether or not you will choose to break the tyranny of silent consensus, the democracy that has so quickly taken the power from those who dare to dissent. Refuse to be silent about how this moment which could challenge so much oppression is being taken away from us, just like everything else has. Refuse the orders of the police. Challenge those who are limiting your ability to act within the occupation, for they also act as police. Occupy space that disrupts that normal flow of life. Find those friends who will dare to act with you and do the same. We will be there for you if you should choose to take your lives and your participation into your own hands. Are you occupying to become powerful or to give away your power to the systems that have gotten us into this mess?
some potential friends/enemies.
afriendoranenemy (at) gmail.com