Reporting Steve Miller
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Updated 10/16/11 at 11:40 a.m.
CHICAGO (STMW) — Chicago Police arrested about 175 Occupy Chicago protesters who refused to leave Grant Park early Sunday following a march from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to the Downtown park.
More than 2,000 people marched and set up two-dozen tents in Grant Park near East Congress Parkway and South Michigan Avenue with the goal of staying the night to draw attention to corporate abuse and express solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Police said about 175 protesters were arrested and charged with a misdemeanor violation of city ordinance for not leaving the park after it closed at 11 p.m. Police said the protesters were told to leave numerous times before making the arrests.
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“When the politicians fail to represent the citizens it’s our democratic and civic duty to demonstrate here,” said 25-year-old Lee Suzuki, of Chicago. “We are not here to cause trouble. We are here to restore democracy.”
Others promised to return to Grant Park after being released.
“We are coming back as soon as we get out,” said 23-year-old DePaul Ph.D. student Ashley Bohrer. “It is a matter of civil disobedience. We’re simply enacting our first amendment rights. We’re a completely non-violent movement. We will go peacefully if cops violate our rights to speech and assembly.”
Late Saturday, the crowd of about 200 in Grant Park waited in anticipation that police would move in. A police officer made an announcement at 11:25 p.m. that the protesters in the park were violating a municipal ordinance. Protesters responded by chanting, “CPD is the 99 percent,” and “CPD needs a raise.”
Police closed traffic on parts of Michigan and stood in lines surrounding the park. A large crowd of about 200 to 300 gathered on the west side of Michigan cheering the protesters.
Just before 1 a.m., police used tower lights to illuminate the tents and hundreds of officers approached the group while open police wagons waited.
The protestors formed a human chain then formed a circle about three-people deep around the tents. Police asked each protester to leave the park or else they would be arrested.
Most of the protesters voluntarily stood up, put their hands behind their back so police could apply zip-ties and escort them to waiting police wagons. One person went limp and at least four officers were needed to carry him to the wagon.
By 1:30 a.m. police made enough arrests to start breaking down the tents. The protesters, who initially chanted “C.P.D. Shame on you,” began chanting “Get your own tents.”
Most of the protesters were respectful of the officers, and tried to get them to join their cause by chanting that police too were part of the “99 percent.” The person most critical of officers was a passing bicyclist who argued with officers about his right to be in the park before riding away.
Brit Schulte, a 23-year-old Uptown resident initially from Texas, was more critical of the arrests.
“It’s really troubling so many people are so readily willing to side with police,” she said. “They have millions of dollars backing them up. I don’t have that.”
Schulte, who said she has three degrees but has been unable to find a job, said she is “prepared to be arrested, but I’d rather not. It’s not important to glorify it.”
Almost an hour after starting asking each person to leave or be arrested, police brought in a CTA bus to take the arrestees to the station. At least two protesters attempted to speed up the process by voluntarily walking to the bus to be processed.
Police made the final arrests around 3 a.m., and about 100 people still protesting, singing and dancing on Michigan Avenue began a march to the Central District police station to show support for those arrested.
Occupy Chicago police liaison Erin Delany said the group offered to take bags and other personal items belonging to the arrested to the Grace Place, 637 S. Dearborn St., where the items could be stored and picked up later.
Police said protesters could claim ownership of the tents and they would be considered arresting property that would be returned. If protesters chose not to claim ownership of the tents they would be inventoried.
Delaney said the group’s safety and security team would clean up any left tents.
Earlier Saturday evening, activists and several union representatives, including the Chicago Teachers Union and the Teamsters, spoke at a rally at the end of the march. At one point an organizer called for rapper Lupe Fiasco to speak, but if he was in the crowd, he did not take the microphone.
“They’re sending a message to the government and the corporations that the common people of the United States are sick of this,” said Deborah Rudnicki, 54, a CPS teacher from the West Side who attended the rally with her husband, Mark. “We’re pushed and pushed and pushed. It’s hard when you’re home trying to pay the bills. I’m angry but when I come down here I feel a sense of calm.”
John Puda, 25, a salesman from Old Town, held a sign reading, “What side of history will you be on?”
“I’m extremely excited that a huge space for dissent has opened up,” Puda said. “A huge space for people who don’t identify with Democrats, Republicans or the Tea Party.”
Carol Hillman, 62, called the Occupy Wall Street movement “the most hopeful political movement in a long time.”
“I don’t know where it’s going to go,” she said.
Zacbe Pichardo, 25, a harpist from Oak Park, marched with a sign reading, “I can’t believe we still have to protest this crap.”
“I think this has been overdue for a couple of decades,” he said.
Among a crowd of tourists watching the rally was the Mumm family of Coal City. They spent the day at the Willis Tower Skydeck, American Girl Store and Niketown before happening upon the march as protesters walked down Jackson at State.
“I have no idea what’s going on,” said Evan Mumm, 9.
His father Derek agreed that while he wasn’t sure what the goal of the protest was, he was enjoying the spectacle.
“I think it’s awesome people are getting together,” he said. “Hopefully [Republican presidential candidate] Herman Cain can change this all.”
The Chicago group has protested outside the Fed around-the-clock for 23 days.
The protesters have been non-violent, unlike a rally in Rome Saturday that turned into a riot which police quelled with tear gas and water cannons. Protesters threw rocks at police, lit trash cans on fire and destroyed bank ATMs.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)