February 11, 2010

Blog Comments on Chicago Mayor Daley's remark: Where are the antiwar protesters?

In February 2010, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley lamented with a straight face the paucity of antiwar protests, despite his active attempts to stop peace protests in Chicago. I posted the following remarks in response.

I agree; there should be more antiwar protests, and more people participating in them. But there's a problem here: If Richard "King of Town" Daley is now lamenting the paucity of antiwar activism, why has he been fighting tooth and nail against grassroots antiwar activists for YEARS?

On March 20, 2003, when Operation Iraqi Liberation Freedom was launched, some 18,000 people took to the streets of Chicago against the war, marching on Lake Shore Drive in one of the legendary protests in Chicago history. Did Daley join in the peace protests, or call a press conference to encourage people to protest, or order the schools and city operations closed so that students and city employees could join in the protests? Of course not. Before the M20 protest (as it became known) ended, Herr Daley deployed massive numbers of violent and violence-prone police to squelch the protest at Michigan and Oak before finishing its planned route down Michigan Avenue. Police then arrested and detained about 860 people (some for as long as two days in lockup), which is more people than were arrested in one night than in a WEEK at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

In 2004 and 2005, activists assembled by the thousands to finish the protest route down Michigan Avenue, but Daley wouldn't have it. In 2004, the antiwar march was forcibly rerouted down to Clark Street. In 2005, the protest march was blocked entirely, about eight people were arrested at a downtown PRESS CONFERENCE held by organizers. Why didn't Generalissimo El Daley put on sackcloth and ashes to lament the paucity of antiwar activism instead of ACTIVELY BLOCKING PROTESTS HIMSELF?

In 2006, peace activists finally DID march down Michigan Avenue, but only activists tried a different clever approach -- applying for a parade permit, holding a protest dubbed the "Festival of Rights". They noted that some 300,000 people attend the Disney-sponsored Festival of Lights parade with nary a problem, so why not hold a protest along the same route with far fewer people? The tactic worked, but how did Daley react after having lost a fight he kept up for three years? He deployed a battalion of violence-prone riot police in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle gear to line every square inch of the protest to make sure. Yeah, real inviting, boss.

What happened in 2009 just took my breath away. Daley's attorneys -- a lot of them very high up on the lawyer food chain -- worked feverishly to block the proceeding of a protest permit which wasn't even held downtown. Peace activists were forced to spend a great deal of time just trying to win the right to protest (in Pilsen for crying out loud!), and they finally won despite Da Mare's continuing cold-shoulder treatment of activists. But, as one of the attorneys for the activists stated: "The reason we prevailed...was because the city violated a technicality of the permit ordinance. There was no political will to issue a permit, and there still is no political will to issue a permit."

A single remark at a single press conference doesn't hold a candle to a long and sordid history. Daley-boy has a great deal to answer for."