I started following the Occupy Chicago movement a week ago, the day after about 40 rain soaked demonstrators began camping in front of the Federal Reserve in solidarity with those occupying Zuccotti Park in New York City. I spent the afternoon with about 16 people on day two and marched with nearly a dozen of them through sleepy streets on an otherwise unassuming Saturday afternoon. One week later, I walked up to the corner of Lasalle and Jackson to find at least 160 vibrant and energized demonstrators working together to construct a sense of direct democracy, complete with committees, supply lines, and tech support. What I see on the streets of Chicago – and now the streets of 40 other cities in America – is a burgeoning coalition of frustrated but self determined, marginalized but otherwise empowered, individuals working towards the beginning building blocks of a new democratic system. It seems frustrating at times, and one could spend countless hours critiquing the systems still in development to govern the way assembly meetings, group decisions and statements are made, but one thing is clear – the folks on the ground each day and night have managed to begin the development of something deeper than a mere one day march through city streets.
A march happens each day, this one in particular shortly after word came through that hundreds of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in New York were corralled onto the Brooklyn Bridge and mass arrested. After an hour long general assembly meeting, demonstrators headed through the financial district, Millennium Park, the Magnificent Mile and back to base camp to once more spread messages of solidarity, positivity and persistence in the face of a political system that’s left 99% of Americans without a real voice in governance. We passed tourists and travelers, wedding parties and street performers and the usual easy bustle of an autumn Saturday in Chicago. Even though a mere half city block away, many people went about their business without a passing glance to the boisterous dance of the dispossessed, I found those who locked eyes with demonstrators carried on conversations about the ideas of those occupying.
While it may be young and still trying to get organized, the movement to Occupy America is growing and cohering. And though many went home after Saturday’s march, more than a hundred stayed to continue organizing and evangelizing, with no plans to leave until they feel their job is done.