Monday, October 29, 2007

Opposing the War in Chicago

Chicago October 27 antiwar - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Chicago Antiwar October 27 - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Last Friday, after work, Ravenhub, myself and a good friend hopped in a rental car and drove east. We were headed for Chicago for the United for Peace and Justice antiwar march and rally in Chicago.

We drove across Wisconsin in the rain. It has been my experience that one must always drive in the rain when crossing through Wisconsin. It’s like that Pigpen character in Peanuts that always has a cloud over his head. Wisconsin also has a cloud that spews rain whenever I decide to drive across it.

Once we got a ways south, the weather turned clear and we got to see the beautiful fall colors again. We are well past peak color at our latitude, but they still have color further south. Very pretty!

Ravenhub is a train nut, so our intricate plans required making our way toward the windy city in a way that would require us to make use of as many trains as possible.

Our plan on the first day was to get to Waukegan so that we could ride the Metra into the city for the rally. We arrived around 2:30 a.m. and found out that Waukegan is a very small town without much in the way of hotels. The Ramada Inn was full, so we chose one of those crappy budget hotels. This one was apparently balanced on the 7th ring of Hell. I cannot explain how completely unpleasant this place was. But all we needed was a few hours of sleep and the price was very cheap. The bathroom was, ahem, filthy and the sink had this big blob of something hideous stuck to its side. Looked like something a horse might cough up. At around 7 a.m., work crews began slamming things around outside our window. We look out and see them tossing every thing, including the bathroom sink from the room next door out the window and into a metal (clang!) dumpster. Oy vey!

So we pack up our meager belongings and head downtown looking for a place to eat breakfast. However, Waukegan’s downtown does not open on Saturday morning. In fact, I believe they roll up the sidewalks overnight. We finally talked to a woman in the car next to us, and she directed us out towards the interstate.

We found a delightful little diner called "The Dog House" and ate a delicious breakfast while watching four of the hardest working people I have ever seen. There was barely enough space behind the counter to move around, and yet these four people managed to feed and wait on 30 or so people at a time. Just amazing. The food was delicious.

We get down to the train station, which is right along Lake Michigan. The train arrives and we get seats in the upper deck. A 30 minute ride through the northern, and ritzy, suburbs of Chicago was thoroughly enjoyable. Halfway there, a bunch of teenagers hope on. They are carrying antiwar signs and are all excited about the trip. They are also constantly changing seats and sharing iPods and cell phones. It was fascinating and a bit frightening. But they were supporting a good cause!

We land in downtown Chicago and wander around hopelessly looking for the el train. We didn’t really have a map that was worthwhile and wandered off in the wrong direction a few times. Fortunately, a Postal worker asked us if we were lost and pointed us in the right direction. Very nice man. We find the el and stop at a Starbucks directly underneath for some caffeinated fortification. Hop on the el and head down to Union Park for the opening rally.

At the park, we are immediately accosted by group after group from the political fringe. Being fairly fringe-y myself, this is heaven. We picked up copies of all the latest left wing press, including the groups that spend all their time attacking each other. There were a ton of campaign workers trying to get their candidates onto the Illinois ballot. After a while, whenever we were approached, we just said, "Not an Illinois voter!" and the zombie-like creatures moved on to the next person.

I ran into this couple from the "Billionaires for Bush" group. They were spot on with their condescension. Made me laugh!

Billionaires for bush - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

At rallies, I always take the opportunity to pet as many dogs as possible and this was no exception. There were quite a few pit bulls, some goldens and a bunch of tiny little "kick-me" dogs of unknown origin.

Several groups had made signs and we’re asking for donations from people who wanted to carry them. That’s a new way to drum up money, but what the heck. It does take effort to put them together, so more power to them.

I ran into a couple of long-time Chicago friends and even four or five Twin Cities activists who had made the trip down there. I was talking to my friend, J, a local union activist when someone from the Bill Richardson campaign came by. We neglected to tell him that we were among the people who had run Richardson out of town several years ago when he tried he was a UN representative defending U.S. foreign policy. It seemed the polite thing to do!

The march began, and we placed ourselves in a group of people who liked to chant. We managed to insert our political line of thought (heh!), into a group that started chanting, "What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!" by changing the call to "What do we want? Troops out! When do we want it? Now!" I mean, seriously, peace the U.S. government way would mean total occupation of Iraq. Not the sort of thing I’m in favor of.

There was a fun guy with a megaphone who started a chant like this:

"When I say Bush, you say, ‘Liar!’ Bush!"

The crowd yells, "Liar!"

Him: "Bush"

Crowd: "Liar"

"When I say Cheney, you say ‘Duck!" Cheney!"

The crowd yells, "Duck!" and everybody ducks down.

Him" "Cheney"

Crowd: "Duck" as we all crouch down.

This chant pleased the cops no end.

Speaking of cops, the presence was intense. Along the march there were at least 3 or 4 Chicago police on each side of every single block. They were friendly enough, dressed in regular gear and standing at ease. When we got downtown and passed the Illinois state building, the state patrol was lined up in their brown shirts (seriously!) with their riot helmets and their clubs held across their bodies in both hands. Sheesh what a waste!

When we walked across the Chicago River, we encountered a group passing out fliers for the local Chicago antiwar coalition. I looked down at the flyer and saw the graphic I made of the odometer showing Iraq, with the q rolling off to be replaced by the n from Iran.

Iraq Iran Peace Antiwar Odometer Sign - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

I asked the guy, "Hey, where did you get this graphic?"

"Stole it off the web!" was the reply.

"I made that graphic!" I told him.

"You did? That’s great!"

I love it when I see my art being used on other people’s fliers!

Right after crossing the Chicago River, we passed a wedding party and their photographer. They decided they needed wedding pictures with the antiwar march in the background. As soon as we saw this, we started chanting "Make love, not war!" The wedding party smiled and waved in response. Cute!

Downtown at the federal building we saw more Illinois cops in riot gear, plus the Chicago mounted police lined up side by side. Lots of overtime got paid that day.

The rally was at the federal building. It was pretty hard to hear. I managed to snag the edge of a cement flower pot, so I got off my feet for a while. There was a great speaker from Iraq who explained how Sunni and Shi’ia Arabs had intermingled for hundreds of years and how the news was wrong in characterizing them as completely separate communities. He said, "I don’t need anyone travelling 10,000 miles to help me talk to my cousin."

We stayed through most of the speeches and then headed back to the train station. Got lost again trying to find the damn thing and once again a friendly stranger sent us in the right direction. We made the train in time, but it was delayed for 45 minutes due to the derailment of an earlier train.

Our ride back was like being in a David Lynch film. The train passes by the Great Lakes Naval Base, so there were a lot of sailors in uniform heading back for the night. They were so damned young and acted like frat boys, throwing stuff back and forth at each other and giggling. A few stops into the trip and a group of teenage girls got on the train. They were prepping for a Halloween party so they spent the trip putting on make up and screaming at each other. Between the hyped up sailors and the screaming teenager girls it was surreal.

Waukegan, once again dead as a doornail, was soon to be placed in our rear view mirror. We headed north. Our plan had been to drive all the way home Saturday night. But I convinced Ravenhub that it was just too much for us oldsters and that we needed to get a good night’s rest after the fiasco of the night before.

So we got a room in a Hampton Inn on the west side of Milwaukee. Ah, paradise! Lovely room, lovely amenities. There was a business center with free computer and internet access so we got caught up on our e-mail. Breakfast was free and healthy. We grabbed some coffee from a local Starbucks and drove for the next 6 hours. We made it home around 2:30 p.m.

At 4 p.m. I decided to take a nap, but never really got up again until 6 a.m. this morning!

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, the local demonstration turned out almost 500 people and was reported to be a lot of fun and widely supported by the people driving by.

Pictures will be added later.


assembling words to armory, she waits... said...

i dig the graphic :)

DaisyDeadhead said...

I wish I'd been with you!!! It looks like a really involved and lively crowd! I haven't been to an antiwar demonstration of that size yet--for this war, that is.

I have a politically-incorrect love of Hilton-owned Hampton Inns (you know every time you stay in one, Paris Hilton buys more Prada!) all because they have vegetarian breakfasts and HBO! (((embarrassed!))

Great post and graphic, which I didn't know you made! I saw it at the Ron Paul rally, too, so you are getting famous.