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City Council of Chicago: Recognize Chicago Activists

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On June 6, 2012, the City Council of Chicago and Mayor Emanuel passed a resolution to officially praise law enforcement forces and city workers who ensured that the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago went off without significant unsanctioned disruption or damage to persons and property. The resolution also claimed that the city hosted "throngs of protesters from around the world seeking a safe forum in which to express their political views... A resounding success, the Chicago Summit forever put to rest old images of Chicago from bygone eras... and proved beyond a doubt that Chicago - a City built upon the same values of diversity and determination that underpin the NATO alliance - was indeed a fitting host for this momentous diplomatic occasion."

The resolution did not recognize, however, that the thousands of nonviolent protesters who braved martial intimidation - including reactionary city ordinancespre-emptive arrests, disappearances, F-16 fly-overs, threat of sound cannons, thousands of police in riot gear (many of whom received preparatory corporate-funded training in close combat) - and media misrepresentation, participated in a highly disciplined expression of civic engagement that proved the costly, wasteful and disruptive municipal response to be inordinate in the extreme and a clear suppression of what a truly democratic society aims to foster.

Whether the estimated $40 million or more required to bring the NATO summit to Chicago for two days is covered by corporate, municipal or federal funds is in the big picture irrelevant.  Funds from all sectors have been squandered to help ensure that the international markets for military aggression prosper.  The amount earmarked for advancing this propoganda, for supplyting the perks favored by state bureaucrats and the show of force used to muzzle public opinion would have made much greater positive impact supporting true peace-fostering programs. One need not strain imagination to visualize what $40 million could do for health clinics, affordable housing, conflict resolution programs, protection of journalistic integrity throughout the world, or revitalization projects in dozens of Chicago's distressed neighborhoods. Imagine what the annual U.S. programmatic investment in NATO of over $750 million (itself dwarfed by the $700 billion in U.S. military spending annually) could do for these types of programs.

Thousands of civically engaged individuals from around the world joined Chicago activists for the 2012 NATO Summit to voice their opposition to NATO and the tremendous costs of membership, which include complicity in the loss of lives and the degradation of human rights across the globe as well as the significant economic burden on our nation. The military industrial complex's abysmal record of domestic job generation compared to other industries alone should be enough to abolish this violent, imperialistic club for state bureaucrats and their corporate taskmasters. 

Despite the best efforts of NATO summit's security apparatus, public citizens in Chicago managed to broadcast some of the many crimes and misdemeanors associated with NATO and our nation's membership.  We are proud of our Chicago activists, which include Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, business people, laborers, artists, intellectuals, students, mothers and fathers, and, yes, many elected officials who have worked valiantly to hold the standards of justice and peace high against the winds of corporate-state opposition.

We present to the City Council of Chicago and Mayor Emanuel a second resolution to properly balance the portrayal of the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago and recognize the city's outstanding history of dissent. Please sign this endorsement of the resolution to let Chicago's public servants know that a vital democracy demands a robust public forum for dissent, demands the freedom to express diverse views without fear of physical, economic or social harm or unjust criminal prosecution.



Title: Honor and Applaud Chicago Activists

A resolution

by the Mayor and the City Council of the City of Chicago

presented by:_____________________________ on:________________ 2012


WHEREAS, on June 6, 2012, the Mayor and the Members of the City Council of Chicago acknowledged the “protesters from around the world seeking a safe forum in which to express their political views” at the 25th annual summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; and

WHEREAS, civil society in the city and in the nation is strengthened by the diversity of public discourse and engagement in a vast variety of forms and indeed the United States of America was founded by immigrants, dissidents, protesters, activists, and revolutionaries; and

WHEREAS, Chicago has a rich and proud history of its own activists, protesters, and dissidents whose actions have inspired enlightened changes in the nation’s policies; and

WHEREAS, in the winter of 1872–73, the Bread Riot prompted hundreds of Chicagoans to occupy the intersection at LaSalle and Kinzie Streets to demand relief for residents still languishing after the Great Fire of 1871; and

WHEREAS in 1884, in the same year the McCormick Reaper Works on the north bank of the Chicago River made a seventy-one percent profit and Cyrus McCormick, Jr., announced that he was cutting workers' pay in order to decrease corporate expenses, the reaper workers struck and McCormick agreed to go back to the old pay scale; and

WHEREAS on Saturday, May 1, 1886, in support of a nationwide strike for an eight-hour workday, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 workers walked off their jobs in Chicago and as many as 40,000 more activists participated in non-violent meetings, marches and rallies around the city to support the workers culminating in the infamous Haymarket Rally at Randolph and Des Plaines on May 4.  Inspired by the victorious American movement for a shorter workday, workers around the world now celebrate May 1, or “May Day,” as an international workers' holiday; and

WHEREAS, in 1894 the Pullman Strike protesting wage cuts led to a nationwide railroad strike that caused President Grover Cleveland and the United States Congress to prioritize conciliation with organized labor, leading to the establishment of Labor Day as a national holiday; and

WHEREAS, in 1910 and 1911, 40,000 predominantly female textile workers protested in front of factories near Franklin and Monroe Streets, blowing whistles and waving shears, demanding an end to sweatshop practices and recognition of a union for the largely immigrant, female workforce; and

WHEREAS, in the 1920s the first known gay-rights group in the U.S.—the Society for Human Rights—was started in Chicago by Henry Gerber; Mattachine Midwest was formed in the 1960s in response to the anti-gay police raids and harassment; gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists have given rise to Chicago becoming one of the most progressive cities in the world, with legal protections, elected officials, a city-designated neighborhood, a major community center, the hosting of the Gay Games in 2006, a Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame started by the city's LGBT advisory council, and culminating in the top law enforcement officials in Illinois proclaiming the denial of gay marriage unconstitutional; and    

WHEREAS, in August 1931, an estimated 60,000 people marched to protest the new eviction laws in Chicago, and the Eviction Uprising led to the creation of unemployment councils and unions in Chicago and around the country; and

WHEREAS, the Back of the Yards neighborhood was the center of Progressive Era reform, exemplified by Mary McDowell and the University of Chicago Settlement House and later Saul Alinsky's Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, a forerunner to community organizing efforts throughout the United States; and

WHEREAS, in 1968 protesters gathered at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago to object to the presidential nominating process resulting in the McGovern-Fraser Commission with reforms in the selection of delegates to the Democratic nominating conventions and, in turn, reforming the states’ back-room caucus system to open presidential primaries; and

WHEREAS, in 1977 the United States Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act as a result of a national direct action struggle to end “redlining” discrimination in bank lending to low-income communities, led by Chicago’s Gale Cincotta and National People’s Action; and

WHEREAS, in the 1980s people with disabilities risked their personal safety by repeatedly “capturing” buses across Chicago in a direct action campaign against the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for failing to make city buses accessible, resulting in a 1990 legal settlement mandating that every CTA bus have a lift; and

WHEREAS, every May 1 since 2005, tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters have peacefully marched through Chicago demanding opportunities enjoyed by previous generations of immigrants; and

WHEREAS, On May 22, 2006, Louis “Studs” Terkel, Chicago's most beloved activist, joined other plaintiffs in filing a suit in federal district court against AT&T to stop the telecommunications carrier from giving customer telephone records to the National Security Agency without a court order, and

WHEREAS, on September 8, 2007, disability rights activists and public citizens took over the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago, demanding that Governor Blagojevich correct his failure to act to transition Illinoisans with disabilities out of institutions and into community-based settings as prescribed by law and the U.S. Supreme Court, part of a state-wide movement that led to legal settlements with the state that now offers over 35,000 Illinoisans with disabilities the choice to live in the community; and

WHEREAS, in April and May, 2012, thousands of engaged individuals gathered in non-violent activities at schools, churches, public forums, demonstrations, rallies and marches throughout the City of Chicago to raise salient issues about our nation’s participation in military activities that violate the human rights of people across the globe and jeopardize the economic vitality of the United States, culminating in a non-violent march against NATO on May 20, 2012; and

WHEREAS, the City of Chicago recognizes public protest as a vital organ of our common weal without which our communities and our nation would be merely a simulacrum of civil society lacking the will or strength to uphold our long-fought-for rights, including for individuals of all origins, abilities, practices, and beliefs, and for animals and environments made vulnerable to harm or extinction by our current or potential policies and practices; and

WHEREAS, those practicing civil disobedience for the protection and advancement of these rights and environments are to be held in the greatest esteem, especially in light of their fortitude in advancing the common good while risking economic hardship, social stigma, media misrepresentation, and legal prosecution; now therefore

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Mayor and Members of the City Council of Chicago officially proclaim Saturday, September 1, 2012 as Chicago Activist Day and urge all denizens of our City to express their sincere gratitude in honoring and applauding Chicago activists who continue to uphold this most noble American tradition in service to our society.


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