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SlutWalk Protest Marked By 5 Arrests, Tensions With Cops & Zionist Demonstrators

By aaroncynic in News on Aug 13, 2017 4:22PM

Five people were arrested Saturday afternoon towards the end of Chicago’s SlutWalk march, a yearly protest organized to show solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and end rape culture. The arrests came after the group rallied and then marched from a park near Water Tower Place through the Magnificent Mile to the Loop. They followed a demonstration at which tensions were sometimes evident between SlutWalk demonstrators and protesters from a new Zionist group.

“I’m tired of black women not being able to be safe,” Shanna, a speaker at the rally prior to the march, told a crowd of around 150 people. “We endure a high amount of sexual harassment, sexual assault and abuse. Not only because our bodies and our personal agency is taken as a f***ing joke, but also because we have limited access to support, resources, institutions, and we are more exposed to poverty—especially poor black trans women.”

This year’s SlutWalk—Chicago is the oldest continuously organized one in the country—saw some controversy in the preceding weeks after an emerging organization called the Zioness Movement announced it planned to join the demonstration after organizers banned "Zionist displays"—a move done in solidarity with Palestinian people, SlutWalk said. (The group later reiterated that Stars of David were not banned and stated that "all symbols of faith and heritage are welcome.")

“The purpose [of SlutWalk] is to say women should be free to wear what they want with out being targeted, to wear nothing in fact… We want to express ourselves, too,” Amanda Berman, one of the leaders of Zioness, told Chicagoist. “We are progressive Jewish Zionists and in fact maybe there may be progressive non-Jewish Zionists," added Berman, Director of Legal Affairs at the New York-based Lawfare Project, a group that describes itself as the legal arm of the pro-Israel movement. Zioness emerged in the wake of the Dyke March controversy and the charges of anti-Semitism that swirled around it.

About a dozen members of the Zioness Movement attended the rally in the park, holding large stylized signs that featured a woman with the word “Zioness” emblazoned on its side. At several points, some of the group attempted to insert themselves in the circle of attendees listening to speakers. Other attendees blocked their signs with either signs of their own or large red umbrellas, a symbol of solidarity with sex workers. At several points, SlutWalk organizers urged attendees to avoid engaging the group. “Come tell one of us, we’ll try to handle it, but we do not tolerate any kind of antagonistic behavior or abuse,” one organizer told the crowd.

“The same motivations that bring me to SlutWalk Chicago today are the ones that bring me to the work of advocating for Palestinian human rights as a Jew and as an American,” said Scout, an organizer with Jewish Voice for Peace, which allies with SlutWalk. “To move confidently, loudly, proudly, sexually throughout Chicago requires me to think about the ways other people’s freedom of movement is restricted, both in Chicago, across the world, in Israel and in Palestine where others movement and freedom of expression is restricted.”

After the rally in the park, SlutWalk marched up and down the sidewalk of Michigan Avenue with chants of “survivors, we all stand together” and “no means no, it doesn’t mean maybe, dont’ touch me, I ain’t your baby.” At several points in the march, demonstrators were blocked by police from crossing one side of Michigan Avenue to the other.

According to the National Lawyer’s Guild, a volunteer organization that provides legal support to progressive social movements that had several representatives on the scene, three arrestees were released with tickets, one with a misdemeanor, while the fifth is being held with charges of aggravated battery to a police officer.

The individual being held is scheduled for a bond hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. SlutWalk organizers and the Trans Liberation Collective are demanding the charges be dropped and say they plan to hold a vigil outside Cook County Jail beginning at 1:00pm.

"The Trans Liberation Collective condemns in the harshest possible terms the brutal actions of the Chicago Police Department against marchers at SlutWalk Chicago this afternoon," the Collective said in a statement posted to its Facebook page. "We further condemn the outrageous arrests and detentions of five marchers, some of whom are TRANS and gender non conforming, and especially the retaliatory and ridiculous felony charge currently being levied against the one trans marcher who remains in detention."

This post has been updated.