175 Occupy Chicago Protesters Arrested In Grant Park Campout (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
Police say they arrested around 175 Occupy Chicago protesters on early Sunday who refused to leave the city's Grant Park, the occupation's new base after weeks of demonstrations outside the Federal Reserve Bank.
The arrests capped off an eventful evening for Occupy Chicago, which began around 7 p.m., when an estimated 2,000 protesters marched from their base of 23 days at Jackson and LaSalle to what the organization is calling their new home, Grant Park at Michigan and Congress. The demonstration was part of an international day of action launched by United for Global Change, a Spanish group.
(Scroll down to view photos from the march and Grant Park campout.)
Marchers taking to the streets of downtown Chicago blocked traffic in several places as they headed toward Grant Park and chanted, "Let the rich feed the poor," "Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!" and "The people united will never be defeated!"
Once at the park, they set of dozens of tents and commenced to set up camp there. Around 500 demonstrators were said to have remained in the park as of 11 p.m., the time that Chicago police warned the park closed and arrests could follow. Others watched from a "safe" distance, cheering on occupiers from across the street on Michigan Avenue.
"This is our Tahrir Square," one speaker addressing the occupiers said in reference to the Arab Spring protests in Egypt and elsewhere, according to the Chicago Tribune. "We're not going to take it anymore! We're going to take these streets."
Around 11:25 p.m., the Chicago Sun-Times reports that police began to warn the occupiers that their staying in the park violated a municipal code. When many protesters remained despite multiple warnings, around 1 a.m., police began to move in on a three-deep human chain around the occupied area.
One by one, police offered each protester a choice: to voluntarily leave the park or be arrested. Police commenced to arrest around 175 demonstrators, a process that lasted until around 3 a.m. The arrests were almost entirely peaceful, particularly when compared with violent outbursts at a similar demonstration in Rome.
According to the Tribune, while the arrests were taking place, demonstrators chanted, "Shame on Rahm! Shame on Rahm!" Some demonstrators seem to feel Chicago's mayor is lacking in sympathy for the "occupy" movement, while mayors in other cities where protests are taking place have supported or even joined in on demonstrations.
Mark Cassello, a Huffington Post blogger who attended the demonstration and has been covering the ongoing rallies, noted that as police were preparing to make arrests, the crowd chanted, "The whole world is watching!"
Karen Looney, a protestor who was arrested, told ABC Chicago that she and other occupiers were "very clear" on the fact that they would likely be arrested during the demonstration.
"We had a great team working with us, and I wanted to say that I'm serious about this movement and want to continue it on as long as possible," Looney told ABC. "We feel corporations have too much influence on government."
Another protester who attended the rally, Deborah Rudnicki, a CPS teacher, told the Sun-Times that the protesters were "sending a message to the government and the corporations that the common people of the United States are sick of this. … We’re pushed and pushed and pushed. It’s hard when you’re home trying to pay the bills. I’m angry but when I come down here I feel a sense of calm."
Those arrested were transported by a combination of CTA buses and police wagons to jail. Remaining protesters then marched to 18th and State, where the protesters were being housed, to express their solidarity. Many of the protesters say they will be back to Grant Park on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, prominent musicians Lupe Fiasco and Justin Sane of Anti-Flag both made appearances as organizers gathered at the Fed prior to the march. "On my way down to @occupychicago Home sweet home!" Fiasco tweeted Saturday. Sane tweeted that his participation in the rally was "inspiring."
Elsewhere, thousands of protesters occupied Times Square in New York City and at least 40 individuals were arrested for blocking the sidewalk. In Toronto, thousands rallied peacefully and set up camp in one of the city's parks. Five thousand protestors in Los Angeles marched before assembling peacefully outside City Hall.
UPDATE: Per the Tribune, at least some of the protesters arrested during the Grant Park demonstration have been released.
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VIEW photos from this weekend's demonstration: