"Take the Horse:" Scenes from Saturday's Occupy Chicago March

By aaroncynic in News on Oct 24, 2011 6:00PM

Once again, Occupy Chicago attempted to “take the horse” in Grant Park on Congress and Michigan Avenue on Saturday. The group decided collectively in a general assembly meeting late last week to hold another march, set up tents and hope police would allow them to stay in the park. As they did last week, Chicago Police enforced the park’s closure and 130 more activists were arrested for disturbing the peace; a few for the second time. While last weekend those arrested for non-violent civil disobedience were released pretty quickly from the 1st District, this time, they were held for much longer. In addition, police did not allow members of Occupy Chicago to post bond for some individuals arrested. Even though members managed to collect the funds in a few moments, police refused multiple requests to post bail and held five people until a court hearing today.

The argument between the First Amendment rights to free assembly and speech and municipal codes regarding park closures seems to be a bit of a distraction on both sides. While Occupy Chicago has a point - free speech doesn’t have a curfew - the city has allowed them to remain in front of the Federal Reserve 24 hours a day since the protests began, albeit with ever increasing restrictions.

That said, other major cities have tried to work with Occupy movements to find amiable solutions. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa not only allows activists to camp out in front of their city hall, but once handed out ponchos to campers during a storm. Though Seattle has had a sometimes tense relationship with their Occupy movement, the city gave them portable toilets to accommodate their occupation in front of City Hall Plaza.

Today, members of Occupy Chicago, along with the National Nurses Union held a protest in front of City Hall in response to the arrests and harsher treatment by Chicago Police. At the park, police were mostly cordial to demonstrators and gave the option to leave several times. After their arrest however, activists were treated differently than last week. According to several reports, police did not allow some of the arrested a phone call for more than 16 hours, some men were held without toilet paper for more than 30 hours, and one Stroger Hospital nurse had her mattress taken from her.

The reality Mayor Emanuel and city officials need to see is the Occupy protests aren’t going anywhere, and they’re getting larger each week. This weekend’s actions had much more support from unions and an even more diverse presence, with more families, senior citizens and individuals from nearly a dozen different cities across the country. The majority of those arrested were not arrested last weekend. Many of them were newer to the movement and most are willing to keep showing up, marching, and attempting to occupy. Employing harsher tactics after making peaceful arrests only shows the city is more interested in trying to flex its muscles, rather than work out a more peaceful situation with an ever growing movement.

Photos by aaroncynic and Ryan Williams.