A small group of Occupy Chicago activists marched through the city Sunday night to protest the arrest of their fellow demonstrators at gatherings in St. Louis and New York City this weekend.
The small group marched from the Federal Reserve to Millennium Park, chanting against police brutality as a pair of bike-mounted police officers rode alongside them down Washington Street.
The hastily called march was to be a show of solidarity with Occupy activists in New York who were forced out of Zuccotti Park Saturday by police, who took dozens of demonstrators into custody during a rally marking the six-month anniversary of the start of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Police also arrested 15 people in St. Louis during the Occupy the Midwest conference this weekend, a regional gathering to discuss the course the flagging Occupy protests will take as the weather warms. In both cities, Occupy protesters claim police beat non-violent demonstrators as well.
The lone contact between protesters and police Sunday night came when a bicycle cop snatched a sign that read “F--- THE POLICE” out of the hands of a demonstrator as he stood a few yards away from the Cloud Gate sculpture while listening to a fellow demonstrator decry alleged police brutality in St. Louis.
“I don’t need a sign to say ‘f--- the police,’” the activist called after the officer rode off, folding up the sign. “I was just holding the sign, and he said ‘You can’t have that.’ I said I’m exercising my First Amendment rights, and he said ‘I don’t like it.’ And he took it.”
With some 20 of the local Occupy movement’s most-active members in St. Louis for Occupy the Midwest, a sort of the regional conference for Occupy groups, numbers for the impromptu protest march were limited, said Mike Kalas, an activist from Wicker Park. However, Kalas said the local and national Occupy movements would be at full strength by the time the NATO summit arrives in the city just two months from now.
“I think the winter just kind of pushed Occupy indoors. If you think it’s teetering now, wait a couple of months,” said Kalas, 28, of Wicker Park. “From what I’ve seen, with the use of social media and the communication between groups, there’s never been anything like this in Chicago.”
Molly Rasmussen, a member of Occupy Rogers Park, said she has yet to witness any violence at an Occupy event in the city, though she thought the reports from her peers in St. Louis presented an ominous sign for what she anticipates will be large protests at the NATO events here in May.
“Speaking for me, and for Occupy Wall Street and Chicago, I can say we are dedicated to non-violence,” she said.
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