One-time Chicagoan John Knefel at the center of #Occupy17 movement

December 15, 2011

On Tuesday, my Facebook feed was flooded with a "Save John Knefel" post. John is an old buddy of mine who I met while touring with Schadenfreude 10 years ago. He and his sister Molly now live in New York and both are very active in the Occupy Wall Street movement. I just saw them last month when we were there for Bazer's Interview Show in Brooklyn. 

John has used his Twitter feed and a podcast to document and discuss the movement and has developed quite a following doing so. On Monday afternoon, John was accompanying protesters to Winter Garden, an indoor private shopping/play area in New York City, when the NYPD forced the protesters out and arrested some. They also arrested John.

The police probably got more than they bargained for because John is a popular voice of the movement and cries of "NYPD arrested journalists" rang through the rest of the country. John is now the leading voice for the #Occupy17, as those who were arrested are now being called. Molly went on Countdown, and wrote up a piece about the experience in Salon. And after 37 hours in jail, John was let out. He also wrote about his experience. It's a fascinating read about what happens after a protester is arrested.

But all brought back a nagging question: Who is a journalist? Can you be one if you are an independent blogger? Or if you Tweet? Or if you observe and report to your neighbors? Boing Boing took up the issue and there are tons of comments going both ways. It is interesting because the Occupy movement believes the institutionalized media is compromised, because much of the media is owned by the 1% they are protesting. So how do they get their story out? And how can they cover something when police won't recognize them? Yes, they are advocates, they argue, but that is merely a style choice (think Mother Jones or Fox News). 

When the movement's new folk hero lived in Chicago, I believe I took him to Improv Olympics for the first time (he's a comic, too). And I believe I took John to Pontiac Cafe in Wicker Park back in the day for his first drink. He's also performed with Schadenfreude a couple times throughout the years. So that makes me partially responsible for this new folk hero. You are welcome, Occupy movement.

B story: I didn't get a chance to talk about this story yesterday, but WBEZ's Rob Wildeboer sat down with former Chicago Police Chief Jody Weis for a conversation about the proposal to issue tickets for marijuanna possesion instead of making arrests. It's really a mesmerizing interview. Weis says what politicians don't understand is that there are no incentives for officers to give tickets. If they arrest now, they get paid overtime fees for going to court for the case. But if they ticket, they don't get any of that. Also, city kids are savvy to the cops dilemma and purposely don't carry ID. This way, you can't ticket. You have to arrest. Then they go to their court case and the judge throws it out and then politicians say "our legal system is all clogged up with small claim drug busts. We should just ticket." Ah, the Catch-22. So when the stats come out about arrests and tickets, it will show that white kids in the suburbs get tickets, black kids in the city get arrested. And then everyone will cry racism or discrimination. It's a great story - very behind-the-scenes look at the complexities of fighting crime.

C story: Mayor Emanuel wants higher fines for G8 protesters. I get the idea, but I'm not sure I like the idea. Essentially, he knows protesters are coming. So if you want to protest in Chicago, you will have to pay more. And in a very 1% vibe, the mayor wants to price out protesters so they'll think twice about civil disobedience.

D story: So one week, the mayor brags about the "Emanuel DNA" when scoring Sara Lee. So what does that mean for the DNA that he lost Playboy?

Weather: Rain could have been snow. So that's kind of a break.

Sports: The New York Post tells us that Yankee superstar Derek Jeter is quite the bachelor. Apparently the morning after he takes a lady home, he ends their affair with a gift basket and a signed baseball. I think there's a limo ride in there, too. It makes me think about my bachelor days. I think I was doing it all wrong. I should have signed more baseballs.

Kicker: This may be the best piece of media WBEZ has ever created. Jason Marck and Eilee Heikenen-Weiss did a quick story on a furry convention out by O'Hare. Jason turned his phone on and caught the furry parade, moving from one room to another. In this 10 MINUTE video, you just see costumed participants, slowly walking by. It's pretty much the best thing on the internet. No joke.