December 18, 2006

"I Heard You, Malachi" Campaign Demonstrates in Cold

About twenty people braved bitter winter cold to participate in a promotional action on December 3, 2006, on a highway overpass to commemorate a political activist who committed suicide to protest the war in Iraq.

Members with the "I Heard You, Malachi" campaign organized the event held near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Peoria Street overlooking southbound lanes on Chicago's I-90/94 Expressway.

The action was held near the Millennium Flame on Chicago's Kennedy Express on the one-month anniversary of the death of Malachi Ritscher, a Chicago-based musician and political activist who burned himself to death in protest of the War in Iraq at the Millennium Flame.

Ritscher's protest is reminiscent of immolation protests enacted against the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Ritscher was accompanied with a protest sign reading "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and a video camera. The contents of the video camera have not been made public.

Two banners -- a white banner reading "I Heard You Malachi", and another green banner reading "Honk, honk if you want PEACE" -- were posted on display for about two hours amid the sunny but tremendously cold conditions. Nearby warming stations helped event participants endure wind chill temperatures near zero degrees Fahrenheit.

"We've had one demonstration. This is our second demonstration. We're flyering. We're sending out emails. And the word has really spread", said Jennnifer Diaz, an organizer with the "I Heard You, Malachi" campaign in an interview with Chicago's CNN bureau at the demonstration.

Media coverage in the corporate media of Ritscher's death and the issues it raised was sparse at first. Traffic reports initially described the situation as a traffic tie-up, then as a suicide, with no follow-up.

After the story broke, coverage widened to an assortment of local and national websites, mentions in the Chicago Sun-Times by movie reviewer Richard Roeper, and a story about the spare media coverage in the Chicago Reader.

With the efforts surrounding the "I Heard You, Malachi" campaign, coverage continued to widen and break further into the corporate sphere with an widely republished Associated Press story and subsequent articles by the Chicago Tribune. A segment about the December 3 demonstration aired on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360.

"When something like this [Malachi's suicide] can happen and people not find out about it, I think there's something wrong with our media", said Diaz. "They've got all kinds of reasons for why it wasn't covered -- [but] the fact of the matter is, I think this is an important political act."

"A man doused himself with gasoline and gave his life in protest of this war. Other Americans need to know about that."