“Head Towards Lake Michigan, Sleep on the Beach, Try Not to Get Arrested”
I ran like a banshee up a upscale Chicago street whose tendrils ended in Lake Michigan. Ragged storm clouds swept in from the Mid-West waters, dark and ominous. The church where I’d left my backpack was set to close its doors at 10 PM. All day, I’d been protesting downtown as part of the storm which became NATO/G8 Summit with Occupy LA. We occupied Rahm Emanuel’s house and participated in a FTP march that Chicago will never forget. “The worst out-of-town scum Chicago’s seen since ’68!” was what I read in the faces of cops sitting on long lines of horses. “Please, Rahm, send us in on this one!” They’d grip their reins until their hands turned white as ghosts, but they never got the order. Occupiers are smart. Even in distant cities from different occupations, occupiers don’t actually go over any property damage nor violence lines—but you wouldn’t know it from watching the Foxaganda Channel. We’d taken three large tour buses there—60 revolutionaries—a ride the bus company will never forget. Would they even take us back? I couldn’t even begin to think of that 1744 miles from home with nothing on me but $40 and an “Imagine Fairness” sign.
What those Chicagoan yuppies thought of the guy dressed like John Lennon running up their street like a madman through blustering raindrops I’ll never know. And then--and then—salvation!—The Wellington Street Church. For a few days, I and about a hundred 20-somethings would use the church as our base during the day. Multiple electronic devices would stick out from every electrical plug, occupiers sleeping on pads wherever they could find a spot, etc. And for that few days the church became the focus of the Chicago Police Department in ways I’d only dreamed about. Hi-tech surveillance vehicles bristling with video cameras, sophisticated audio capture and cops. Lots of cops. In vans, on foot, in uniform, out of uniform…
But I couldn’t worry about that either right now. The church was about to seal its doors in a few moments. And being inside was almost as crazy. A few hundred kids who call themselves things like Occupiers and Anarchists—and this crazy dude dressed like John Lennon. Suddenly, I spotted Alex from OLA. “Where the hell do we go?” I asked him as a girl with a 99% bandanna from Occupy Chicago overheard me and said “Head towards Lake Michigan, sleep on the beach, try not to get arrested!” Oh my God, she’s serious. That was the housing arrangement? I and Alex glanced up towards the tempestuous sky. The rain started to fall harder. Jeeeez! I should have joined the Tea Party! At least they throw in hotel rooms. How hard could it be to fit in? Walk into a room, state who you hate, others say “Hey, we hate them too!”, then sit around and talk a bunch of shit—in a hotel room, with beds and sheets. But this was the occupation.
My day had been insane. There was even a moment when I thought one demonstration was over. I’d taken off my John Lennon glasses, had my sign in black plastic stretched over my back—walking away—when I turned a corner and found myself on a street with nothing but white unmarked vans with (hidden at the time) blue lights. This was the “head of the snake” of the government (Police, DHS, FBI—surrounded by riot cops). So what does good ole Nowhere Man start doing? Well I started taking photos, of course—and then it happened. Slowly a white van eased up to me while I snapped away on the sidewalk. “What’s in the black bag?” That’s what the cop/special agent asked in a Mid-Western drawl. Oh, my F-ing god! The answer was drugs! I still had marijuana on me. Totally illegal in Illinois. The questions went on in a DHS cat and mouse-like game. What was in the plastic? My sign. Why was I taking photos in “this” area?” I don’t have an attitude with authority figures, so what ended up happening is I was “free to go”—but that may not have been the case if I’d answered differently—or in a different tone. I was only a moment—or-a wrong answer—from being disappeared into one of those white vans.
But even the federal government craziness during the day seemed far away at the moment. The pitter-patter of raindrops increased on the sidewalk. Alex, always an occu-trooper, shrugged it all off and said he was gonna leave to sleep back under the trees near the marina where we’d slept last night. An option, but my pack was filled with electronics and I was sure my “Imagine Fairness” sign wouldn’t last in a turbulent Chicagoan downpour. Option two—the Reverend, a member of Occupy Oakland and self-proclaimed hood rat, said he was taking three buses to sleep on an auditorium floor in South Chicago—only two or three hours to get there by bus, hopefully. Hummm…
Snap decision—crash with my homies under the trees again—F the rain. I grabbed my pack and “Imagine Fairness” sign wrapped in plastic just before the priest closed the doors. No more sanctuary. I raced down Wellington towards the lake. Where the hell was Alex? A few people ahead of me on the street now? Through gusting winds sweeping over the park-like areas by the lake, I heard the familiar clang of ropes inside the aluminum masts of the yachts near the marina where we’d spelt the night before under a starry dry sky.
Finally—the trees next to the marina. The view of downtown Chicago was breathtaking in the distance across the lake. Alex and my other friends spread out sleeping bags. I joined them—exhausted. I plopped down on my pad and stared up at the clouds thinking of Victor Hugo’s description of them as “the only birds that never sleep.” The lonely cry of a seagull echoed over the marina. I closed my eyes, resigned to sleeping in the pouring rain.
And then—sleep. Just like that, I was unconscious when it usually takes me hours to doze off. It rained, but never enough to even make me wake. The storm raged over me, but nothing awoke me that night. Tomorrow the political storm which was NATO/G8 Summit 2012 would rage in an even greater cauldron.