Occupy protesters befriend Chicago Police

December 5, 2011

Aaron Freeman

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(Flickr/Michael Kappel)
The relationship between Chicago police and Occupy protestors has been relatively peaceful.

In recent months, in cities around the world, there have been major clashes between protesters and the police. Egypt has seen fighting and sporadic protests since January. In the U.S., in apparent coordination with Homeland Security, police have staged violent midnight raids on protesters affiliated with Occupy Wall Street, sometimes resulting in bloody clashes. Oakland, Calif., police win the coveted "Tiaenanmen Square Award" for shooting peaceful veteran Scott Olsen in the head with a tear gas canister.

But then there’s Chicago. As time has gone on, the police here have had better and better relations with “da occupation.”

Chicago protesters learned back in the '60s that unlike us, the police have weapons, and if they do not like us they can use them with abandon. In 1968 we learned that chanting “the whole world is watching” just meant they could see your butt get beaten in Kampala. Consequently, for its first two months, our occupation obeyed most of the city’s laws. Occupants offered food to the police and generally behaved as if members of the Chicago Police Union were also part of the 99 percent. And Occupy Chicago has a young, attractive liaison to the police, so that the cops might literally look kindly upon the occupation.

On November 17th, the International Day of Action, New York protesters were bloodied. In California, cops pepper-sprayed passive resisters like mosquitoes. In many U.S. cities police arrived ready to confront protesters with gas grenades and riot gear. Meanwhile, Occupy Chicago’s biggest march yet had a police escort. Yes there were protesters taken away by the cops. But there was none of this chemical weapons, knee-on-the-throat, twisting people’s arms nonsense. In Chicago, a unionized officer would politely walk over to a pre-designated, police-friendly law breaker. The calm and courteous officer would explain what was going to happen. The designated lawbreaker assented, and it happened. In New York protesters were charged with felonies. In Chicago many were ticketed for failure to take proper pedestrian precautions. Then protesters moved on to the next part of the march. And the police liked and had so much confidence in the protesters' ability to manage themselves that much of the escort force was on bicycles.

I’m not saying that all the Occupy movements should, or could, be like Chicago's, and befriend those people with guns without whose support you cannot even be on the streets. But I am saying that when they tell the stories of all the Occupy events in the more than 1,500 cities and 82 countries on all seven continents, let there be no doubt that Chicago has da Occupation dat works.