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Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Chicago's rag tag band in the rain

Rain is hard in Chicago. It is a brooding dark city in the South loop anyway and when it rains in October and the people have gone away then you really feel that old Nelson Algren metropolis that seems so much like Gotham. Maybe it's because Chicago is a northern city that has to get through the long winters. But South Loop has always been strange and deserted at night and Lasalle Street is even more deserted with the closed up CBOT and the giant pillars of the Federal Reserve. And then in all that rain and dreariness is a small group of people with soggy signs and plastic slickers. They stand there on one corner looking like homeless people: Occupy Chicago.

You can't beat them up too much. Protesting in the modern age like everything else is derivative. I remember the huge parade of people going down Michigan Avenue when the Iraq war broke out. The first one. A lone black man said to me we goin to war. And then they marched down Congress and that was a large protest, but they too were swallowed up by indifference. The war happened anyway. What is interesting is that the Occupy movement is pretty small or so it seems and they are getting media coverage. But this too is on a time limit.

My buddy and I huddled in the CBOT doorway out of the rain and watched the protester's. One woman held up a sign: WE ARE THE 99 PERCENT. A few people honked as they went by. The rain came down even harder. The rest of the protester's talked as if at a really bad concert waiting for the next band. Somebody hit a giant drum. But other than that there was just the marble edifices of modern finance and the small motley crew of people. A cop pulled up and sat in his car, staring at the ad hoc tent of plastic someone had set up over boxes. Hooverville of the Depression comes to mind.

And then there was really not much to do. We were in the middle of the night in the middle of  a rainstorm watching people get soaked with a few soggy signs. No change it would seem here. It was almost embarrassing to watch. Maybe all movements start like this but television certainly glamorizes because this was just small and dismal. So we moved on and found a bar.

It was a yuppie bar on Michigan Avenue with a strange feel of 1985 for yuppies. But no one had told these people the party was over. Men in suits and women in designer dresses. Martinis all around. A wealthy man with long grey hair just down the bar. We order up and sit among the if not one percent then certainly the up and coming ten percent. Who knows. We were a long way from that ragged band of soaked people on a street corner.

So it is with all revolutions.

Books by William Hazelgrove