Monday, October 10, 2011

Occupy Chicago + Poem: Carl Sandburg

One of the signs @ Occupy Chicago
One of the signs from yesterday #occupychicago
I've posted a few times about the Occupy Wall Street (#OWS) and other Occupy Financial Districts protests, but I had not been able to get down to the Occupy Chicago gathering until yesterday. (Today participants will join the Mass Mobilization to Take Back Chicago by marching from their main site at Jackson and LaSalle across the street from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Chicago Board of Trade to the Art Institute of Chicago at 4:45 pm, where a reception for the Futures Industry Association and the Mortgage Bankers Association will be held.)

For those in Chicago, this is Take Back Chicago week, which will include several events each of the next few days. Today's mobilization:

@4PM: Jobs March
Federal Plaza @ Adams/Dearborn
Daley Plaza @ Washington/Dearborn

On Tuesday, October 11, 2011
@4PM: Homes March
Hyatt Regency @ Wacker/Stetson

On Wednesday, October 12, 2011
@4PM: Schools March
Hilton Chicago @ Balbo/Michigan
Chicago Board of Trade @ Jackson/LaSalle

As I wrote to friends today, when I heard Congressperson Eric Cantor's (R-VA) comments the other day referring to Occupy Wall Street and similar protesters as "mobs," I immediately thought of several poems by Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), the great poet of the Midwest, industrial America and labor.  Perhaps the best of these Sandburg poems specifically mentioning "the mob" is "I am the People, the Mob," of one poems I read earlier this year at the Poetry for Labor event I organized down at the Haymarket Memorial Sculpture on May Day.  "I am the People, the Mob" grounds the meaning of the latter term in the historical and material conditions of working people, suggesting that without the labor, the intellects, the bodies of workers, the vaunted corporations-persons would have been and would be nothing. Here is Sandburg's poem (I must remember to bring a copy with me in case I want to read it at an event) in case you don't have it handy:


I AM the people--the mob--the crowd--the mass.
    Do you know that all the great work of the world is
         done through me?
    I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the
         world's food and clothes.
    I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons
         come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And
         then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.
    I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand
         for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me.
         I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted.
         I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and
         makes me work and give up what I have. And I
    Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red
         drops for history to remember. Then--I forget.
    When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the
         People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer
         forget who robbed me last year, who played me for
         a fool--then there will be no speaker in all the world
         say the name: "The People," with any fleck of a
         sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision.
    The mob--the crowd--the mass--will arrive then.

Copyright © Carl Sandburg. All rights reserved.

Below are a few photos from yesterday's gathering.  What impressed me was not only the enthusiasm of those present, but of so many people driving, walking and riding--in Chicago's double-decker tour buses--by. Perhaps because the rally was smaller than some prior ones have been, the day of the week and the hour determining attendance, everyone who wanted to could command the microphone for as long as she or he saw fit and speak, and many of those who stepped up did have thoughtful things to offer the crowd. (There was one person who shrieked out a call for violence then fled--agent provocateur, no doubt, for a true anarchist would have been willing to defend his views, no?) I did not attend the General Assembly, which began at 7 pm, but the notes from previous ones are available at the Occupy Chicago website.  I will heading back this upcoming weekend and at any other times that I can.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, across from the Occupy Chicago event
The Fed Bank of Chicago across from the protest site
Occupy Chicago participants beneath Bank of America banners
Occupy Chicago, beneath Bank of America banners
A picture worth a thousand bad policies
A photo worth 30 years of bad policies
One the Occupy Chicago rally's speakers
A speaker (he spoke about corporations' pushing "plastic sh*t" on us)
One of the musicians @ Occupy Chicago
One of the participants, a musician
People @ Occupy Chicago
Making music as someone else sang-rapped political aims
People @ Occupy Chicago
Participants across from the Chicago Board of Trade & Library
The crowd @ Occupy Chicago
Occupy Chicago particants ("End Corporate Welfare")

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