As thousands gathered for the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade held on State Street this past Thursday, a small group of demonstrators representing Occupy Chicago took to the masses to display what they’re thankful for.
“I’m extremely thankful that the Occupy movement is still going on and that its growing,” states Micah Philbrook, Occupy Chicago activist, whom has been with the group since its inception two months ago.
The demonstrators, who advocate for the redistribution of wealth in the country, have been imbedded in the Financial sector of Chicago. Through squatting, drumming and chanting, the diverse body of protesters has made their presence known downtown.
Earlier this month on Nov. 17th, members of Occupy Chicago mobilized to support various local labor unions, such as Stand Up! Chicago and the coalition Take Back Chicago, as they blockaded the LaSalle street bridge over the Chicago river during rush hour.
This recent collaboration between activist groups is an ongoing trend as more and more people acknowledge and associate themselves with what the Occupy movement stands for—that there is a lopsided rise of wealth to the upper crust of America (the top 1%) which takes away from the rest of the citizens’ pockets (the bottom 99%).
“Its not really about groups that are working for different issues coming together, it’s the fact that all these established groups from the city are working for what the 99% means. All of these groups are working for housing rights, workers rights, and teachers rights. Its not really different groups or sectors of this city, its all this one big group of the 99%,” states Occupy Chicago activist Rachael Perrotta.
The Chicago division of the Occupy Wall Street movement has garnered hundreds of people in past demonstrations; but as the impending winter comes citizens and protesters alike take shelter from the cold.
But the activists understand they have to adapt to the Midwest weather, Perotta continues,“Chicago is cold in the winter, you’re not going to see as many of us standing on the corner. But the neighborhoods of this city, the community organizations of the city and the unions of this city will see and hear us every day.”
On the East coast, recent retaliation has forced the movements originators Occupy Wall Street to evacuate their homebase of Zuccotti Park. And as the chillier weather inevitably looms closer many question whether the ‘Occupiers’ can keep their movement afloat which depends upon literally occupying a physical space.
Instead of concentrating their force in one specific area, the movement has spread out amongst Chicago’s communities in a wintertime grassroots effort.
As Occupy member Jeremy Lynch explains, “We’ve been doing a lot of neighborhood outreach. We want to figure out what the concerns are of the people in different neighborhoods for their own local communities. To make it more local and meaningful for them. We can draw numbers in that way, but more importantly, its about helping people.”
As the giant, inflatable floats and marching bands entertained Chicagoans at the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade, the protesters walked through the traffic wielding signs such as, ‘I’m thankful for vets against war’ and ‘Thankful for the 1st amendment’. Their presence stirred a mixed reaction of confused looks and supportive encouragement.
Whether citizens, politicians or businessmen agree with the movement or not, it has been hard to ignore. Besides simply creating awareness of societal and economical issues, one of the clearest displays that the Occupy Wall Street movement has influence is the result of their promoted ‘Bank Transfer Day’ on Nov. 5th.
Since Nov. 5th, a credited 650,000 people took their money out of corporate banks and put it back into local or community controlled credit unions. This mobilization of money moved 4.5 billion dollars away from the largest banking industries.
Perrotta continues, “Some people might say well 4.5 billion doesn’t mean that much to the banking industry. But you take 4.5 billion here, 4.5 billion there, all of it is going to start adding up. So that’s one example of the message of the movement having a huge, real impact.”
Photo Credit: Alan Rosenquist