by Don Washington on 2011/11/16
Yesterday a few dozen people did one of the bravest things you can imagine. They risked arrest and assault at the hands of a Mayor who must be fuming that he can’t be his real ruthless self, yet. We have so many things to be upset about that until OWS we were running in so many directions that we were easily contained but the OWS movement is pulling us all together and showing us that the emperor has no clothes. Last night’s brave actions made me think that we have to begin to move beyond placing our bodies in the gears of the machine and start taking it apart.
This budget is coming and our Aldermen need to begin to feel that it is up to them to save the city. Yesterday was another incredible chapter in a desperate battle that most people know nothing about. They’re not fighting to protect merely mental health facilities; they’re fighting to set government’s priorities on people not profit. Government is not a balance sheet it’s a social contract. It exists to meet the needs of the people in times of stress and trouble not cut them off from help when they most need that help. It is time to add some tactics to make that clear to the powers that be.
Last night organizations that have been locked in political combat with Mayor Emanuel’s obscene $6.3 billion dollar budget turned up at his office and threatened to occupy it. The police quickly stepped in to keep the situation from becoming a permanent problem for the Mayor. That would have been something to see for certain. They came to protest the Mayor’s plan to close half the City’s mental public health facilities but when you think about it, if he could Mayor Emanuel would close all of these facilities or find a private corporation to run them for less money. Which is another way to say; give a private corporation a pile of guaranteed tax dollars to deliver less services to a population that doesn’t have the power to stop them from abusing them. The bottom line is that this budget is a reflection of Mayor Emanuel’s soul and it should make you wonder if the little marmoset has one because he clearly has the empathy of sociopathic werewolf.
Mayor Emanuel is building his new $6.3 billion dollar budget on the backs, bones and souls of the middle class while hording TIF funds, handing out $20 million in corporate tax breaks and plotting the city’s course in absolute secrecy with the very people he’s giving tax breaks and money to. For months organizations like the Grassroots Collaborative, Jobs with Justice, STOP and others have been engaged in political combat with him to the point where his tiny hooves have been forced to run from some of his secret meetings to the shouts of hundreds and half of his public town hall meetings ended with him being treated like the Machiavellian black hat he actually is.
A few dozen people showed up on his doorstep. The occupy tactic came to the Mayor’s door and the police contained it except for a Jobs with Justice pizza delivery but there is something that all of us should take to heart. The tactic is creating a reaction but last night may be telling us that we need to begin to augment it with something that creates more relationships and puts even more pressure than our mere presence and dissent can create. This budget is an abomination but our aldermen don’t seem perplexed by it. Many neighborhood groups are not focused on what it means. Non-profits are quiet about how it punishes them and parents with schools aren’t fully engaged in changing the conversation. The tactic is pulling us together in conversations about the world as we want it to be as we shake our fists at how it is. We need, however, to add some more tactics to our quiver to keep the tactic from becoming predictable enough to be easily contained. The occupy tactic is rooted in a basic truth that Mario Savio pointed out.
“There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”
We’ve been placing our bodies in the machine for months and they’ve been adapting. They hem us in and do not allow our numbers to get too big or so public that we hold ground. They arrest us as fast as they can and if we begin to demonstrate too much focus, like in Oakland or stage out of the occupy area to march on corporate targets they will use tear gas, rubber bullets and the truncheon to drive us out. They will deploy perception management tactics saying that the encampments are public health dangers, places where rapes and violence are so common that they are creating public safety dangers to the surrounding areas to keep people from joining the encampments out of fear and to justify destroying them. The Mayors of these cities are coordinating with the FBI, Dept. of Homeland Security and dozens of corporations to track activist groups using database systems and infiltrating our movements. I wish this was paranoia but it’s not.
The change is already starting. Occupy neighborhoods is taking off and general assemblies are coming to neighborhoods and the multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-generational tone of the OWS movement is taking shape. One thing that is for certain here in Chicago is that we have their attention. Now we need to start finding ways to compel our elected officials to start serving us by placing their bodies in the gears of the machine. It is time for the Aldermen to stand up to our Mayor on behalf of the people and we need to help them with that.