Photos / Articles About the Massive March 18th Anti-War Protest
The Gay Liberation Network's webmaster, Syd Stevens (www.SydStevens.com), has done a magnificent job keeping our website, www.GayLiberation.org, up to date with news articles and pictures of the huge anti-war protest on Michigan Avenue last month. In the days leading up to the protest, our battle to have free speech rights for the anti-war message on Michigan Avenue got coverage in The Reader, Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times and on most Chicago television news programs. Following the successful march -- the largest in the U.S. on the third anniversary of the war -- all the evening newscasts led their programs with coverage of it, and it was page 1 news in the Sunday Tribune and page 3 of the Sunday Sun-Times.
Ever since the beginning of the Iraq war, the Daley administration has clamped down on peace activists attempting to get their messages heard in the City of Chicago. The night after the invasion began, March 20, 2003, the City trapped and then arrested over 800 protesters in what was the largest mass arrest in Chicago history. It was also the largest mass false arrest in Chicago history, as all of the charges were dropped, in legalese, "in a manner indicating innocence."
While anti-government protesters could get their messages heard on major thoroughfares in cities around the globe, Chicago has repeatedly threatened mass arrests at anti-war protests since the start of the Iraq war. The effort to win that same right in Chicago is well covered in the articles Syd has posted to our website.
Why has the current mayor, like his father before him, expended so much energy attempting to squelch peace protesters' messages? A key factor is the "pin stripe patronage" which has partially replaced the jobs-based patronage of old. Not only does the current mayor secure his power base by privatizing government operations to favored private campaign contributors, but public moneys from the federal trough, currently controlled by Republicans, have their own requirements as well.
A key priority of the Bush administration has been to shield the President and his policies from public protest. During the 2004 election, for example, at campaign stops around the country, individual protesters with anti-Bush signs along Presidential motorcades were routinely arrested. Like the Vietnam War before it, as this war becomes increasingly unpopular, public protests sap the abilities of the politicians to pursue it, to the point now that not only do an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the war, some 72% of soldiers stationed in Iraq do so as well.
The Vietnam War era also became known as the age of the COINTELPRO scandal, when it was revealed that the federal government, working in concert with local authorities such as the Chicago Police Department, routinely and systematically violated the rights of anti-war and civil rights protesters, committing felonies that had they been committed by civilians, would have landed them in prison for many many years. The December 4, 1969 murders of Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark by Chicago Police was but one of the most egregious felonies that included illegal spying, infiltration and violation of 1st Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.
Fastforward to today, and the City of Chicago leads the nation in moneys received from the federal government for the militarization of its schools. It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to see this as pay back for City Hall's support for the President's war. The hundreds of riot-clad cops, each decked out in gear costing a few thousand dollars a piece, is a payoff from the last federal gold rush -- Department of Homeland Security dollars.
The March 18th protests were an important milestone for the City's anti-war and civil liberties movements -- for the first time in three years being able to put the anti-war message front and center in the public space. Obviously, much remains to be done. Over 100,000 Iraqis and closing on 3000 Americans are dead, with no end in sight. $2.5 Billion from Chicago alone has gone to this war, moneys that could more than reverse the huge cuts our community programs have taken over the past few years.
And now, an attack on Iran may be imminent. While the current Iranian regime is no friend of gays -- executing dozens of our brothers there -- bombing them and their non-gay countrymen is the last kind of "support" that they need. Like with the Iraq invasion, an emergency response plan has been developed in the event of an attack on Iran by the United States and/or one of its proxies. In the event of an attack, there will be a protest at 5 PM at Federal Plaza (corner of Adams & Dearborn Streets, Chicago) on the day of the attack, with a follow up protest at the same place and time on the day after.
Let's hope it doesn't come that. In the meantime, take a few minutes to rejoice in our small victory on March 18th by visiting the GayLiberation.org website.