News / USA

Chicago Protesters Look for Permanent Home

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Kane Farabaugh

Violence has flared up again in Oakland, California, where police and Occupy protesters have clashed. However, the protests around the country have been largely peaceful, including in the city of Chicago, where demonstrators are seeking a permanent home to stage their protest, a crucial step if the movement is to survive the harsh Midwestern winter.

Tear gas, flash grenades and chaos as Oakland police try to block Occupy protesters from moving down a street after violence erupted late Wednesday.

But in the middle of the country, the Occupy Chicago protest remains calm, even though its members cannot really "occupy" public areas.

They had hoped to use this space in Grant Park as their camp.

But police arrested them each time protesters tried to stay past the city's 11:00 p.m. curfew.

“The city is being fair," said Jordy Grant. "But I believe they could work with us a little more to find a permanent place to stay instead of on the corner here.”

Jordy Grant is an organizer with Occupy Chicago and says protesters hope the city will help them find a place to set up a camp.

Historian Erik Gellman of Roosevelt University says the protesters are mindful of the violence during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.  That incident, at the height of the Vietnam War, sparked outrage when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley ordered police to suppress demonstrations.

“Had Mayor Daley at the time responded by not sending police in to enforce that curfew, you might not have had the kind of police violence that resulted in August of 1968," said Gellman. "So I think that's a lesson that [Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emanuel can really learn from as far as tolerance for the Occupy movement."

Chicago officials declined to speak to VOA.  But in an e-mail, officials say they support the demonstrators' right to free speech and that they have assisted with crowd control and traffic during the daily protests.

Protester Grant says he understands the curfew, but adds that the demonstrations against perceived corporate greed have been peaceful here.

“If we want to be able to occupy, we should be able to," said Grant. "That’s our park. It’s not their park. It’s all of our park. And if not there, at least somewhere else.”

How the city deals with the Occupy protest might be an indication of how it will respond next year, when tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected to descend on Chicago when it hosts the G8 and NATO summits in May.

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