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Is a model of confrontational nonviolence emerging in Chicago?
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks - Isiah 2:4
If Monday, May 14 - the first day of anti-G8/NATO summit protests in Chicago - is any indication, a direct action street protest model of confrontational nonviolence that enhances both local campaigns and national social movements is emerging that could predict how the rest of the week will play out on the ground in the Windy City.
Imagine if, by next weekend, a hundred or more large affinity groups of 50-75 people each all started organizing their own pop-up demonstrations at big banks, payday loan shops, and the offices of elected officials. The city of Chicago could potentially be overwhelmed, while a disciplined commitment to confrontational nonviolence could increase the legitimacy of the protests and their message.
Monday morning, about 100 members of the national Catholic Worker movement occupied the Prudential building that houses President Obama's national campaign headquarters to protest the corporate G8/NATO agenda (for MSNBC, Chicago Tribune, and Reuters coverage, go here , here, and here. Eight people were arrested.
The demonstration was marked by prayer, song, and dance, more of a block party than a raucous rally (the only real chant heard besides antiwar blues and gospel tunes was "potato! tomato! no more NATO!"), but the christian anarchists still caught building security by surprise when they suddenly stopped their program outside the public sidewalk and quickly, efficiently, with discipline, rushed the front doors of the building, pushed past security, and resumed their "Ain't Gonna Study War No More" dance party - this time inside the lobby and second floors of the building before the private guards could react.
Demonstrators would have actually penetrated every floor of the skyscraper but the guards were forced to shut down the elevators, disrupting business inside the building for hundreds of people trying to get to work.
As bold as that action was, however, when dozens of Chicago police officers began mobilizing inside and outside, protesters maintained their nonviolent discipline, stalled for time by "mic checking" a prepared statement, and, eventually, dispersed in an orderly manner while the eight-member arrest team stayed and got busted for criminal trespass.
How the rest of the week of action plays out in large part depends on if street protests continue to grow and build momentum in advance of the nurses march on Friday, the coalition action on Sunday, and the Boeing shutdown on Monday.
But Monday showed that the G8/NATO summit protest mobilizations this week may also add power to local campaigns. Monday afternoon, more than 50 teachers and students at a southside high school were joined by more than 50 people from Occupy Chicago, the Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education, and assorted socialist groups like the Workers World Party and the International Socialist Organization.
Local immigration, climate, and housing organizations also have demonstrations planned this week, and spontaneous, or unannounced, anti-capitalist marches can take everyone by surprise.