Occupy Chicago to attempt stay at Grant Park

October 23, 2011 5:46:22 AM PDT
Occupy Chicago protesters face possible arrest after setting up camp for in Grant Park Saturday night.

The park officially closes at 11 p.m., and police say it's their job to enforce all city ordinances. Last weekend, 175 protesters were arrested after they refused to take down their tents and leave the park. Some could face fines of up to $500.

"Even though I was shaking when I was arrested, I felt like I had to be there, not only for myself and my daughter, but also for the millions of other people that are not able to stand up for themselves," said Occupy Chicago protestor Wamaid Mestew-Borges.

The demonstrators don't have permits to stay in the park but organizers say they need a new home base for their growing movement. So on Saturday night, they made a section of Grant Park near Congress and Michigan their home.

"Everyone's been calling Rahm and everything and saying, 'Hey, we want somewhere to set up camp.' Why not? Give us something. Give us Grant Park. Give us something," said protester Dylan Bellisle.

Some protestors say they're not only willing to risk arrest -- they welcome it.

"By throwing ourselves into the judicial system, we can say what needs to be said," said protester Albert Cipriani.

The gathering began earlier Saturday night at Jackson and Lasalle, which has been the site of weeks of demonstrations in front the Board of Trade and Federal Reserve Bank. But because city laws prohibit tents and structures there, protestors want a larger space like Grant Park to grow their fledgling movement.

When asked if the movement would lose steam once it got colder outside, protester Tracy Curran replied, "I don't know the answer to that. I hope it keeps its strength. I think the anger and the frustration behind it will continue regardless of the weather."

At about 7 p.m. Saturday, protestors began marching to Grant Park -- some with bullhorns, others with baby strollers and even walkers.

"This movement, despite accusations that it's just fringe college students or a bunch of bohemians, it's really reaching out to a broad base across the population," said protester Marco Rosaire Rossi.

"I'm here for my granddaughter so that I can send her to college. She deserves Pell grants," said protester Chris Soto.

Though the movement has been criticized for lacking a clear message, there are signs it's growing more organized. Some were distributing flyers with message points Saturday night, and there's now a medical team on hand as well as lawyers to help those arrested. Attorneys with the National Lawyers Guild held a closed-door meeting with those who were arrested earlier Saturday.

"We're just preparing them today for what to expect in court and to determine how they want to move forward," said Sarah Gelsomino, National Lawyers Guild.

"We have an affinity with these people in terms of wanting to change our country and our government so the rich and corporations don't have such influence and run our country," said Jim Fennerty, National Lawyers Guild.

Chicago police estimate the size of the crowd in Grant Park Saturday night at around 1,500 -- a smaller number than last weekend.

"I'll be out there tonight. I'll be out there tomorrow. And the next day, and the next day, and the next day," said protestor Ashley Bohrer.

Among the demonstrators out during the day on Saturday was Olympic bronze medalist John Carlos, whose black power salute during the 1968 games became an iconic image of that era.

"This is the same fight. It is wider now. It encompasses all ethnic backgrounds," Carlso said.


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