BREAKING: Violence Feared at #OccupyChicago Today - UPDATE: Police Say 3,000 Attend, 24 Arrests, 1 For Battery
Big Government has learned that anarchist groups, led by Lisa Fithian and working with Democrats and unions on the ground in Chicago, intend forcibly to disrupt the Mortgage Bankers' Association meeting at the Hyatt Regency Chicago and other locations this afternoon.
Violence is possible, as local police and security officers seem unprepared for a confrontation with thousands of activists converging on the Hyatt from multiple other staged demonstrations in Chicago.
Fithian, a veteran anarchist organizer who is widely credited with shutting down the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999, has apparently arrived in Chicago after participating in the #OccupyWallStreet demonstration in New York.
According to Big Government sources, Fithian is currently training union leaders from the Service Employees' International Union and the Teamsters Union in preparation for today's demonstration. Her strategy may be to draw law enforcement officers to multiple protest sites, then to shift demonstrations suddenly to one central site.
Democratic activists and leaders, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), are expected to address the demonstrators today as part of "Stand Up Chicago," a broad coalition of community organizing groups coordinated by the SEIU and promoted by left-wing bloggers in the area.
The Chicago demonstration is the latest example of cooperation between anarchists, unions, and Democrats, who share an interest in targeting America's free market system--some with the explicit intention of destroying it, others with the hope that the spectacle will help President Barack Obama's re-election efforts by "inspir[ing] the progressive base."
Citizen journalists are urged to record and report the demonstrations, and to contact law enforcement regarding any illegal or violent activity. Follow #OccupyChicago, #TakeBackChicago, and #occupymortgagebankers to monitor protest activities on Twitter.
UPDATE: The Chicago Teachers' Union has posted its plans for the demonstration, including training led by Lisa Fithian. Fithian's apparent strategy, as anticipated, is to stage multiple demonstrations that will then converge on one location.
UPDATE 2: The convergence point appears to be the Art Institute of Chicago. Activists in Washington, DC clashed with security guards at the National Air & Space Museum this past weekend.
The first, "feeder" protests have begun, with anti-capitalist signs and Guy Fawkes masks:
UPDATE: #OccupyChicago has posted detailed plans for the various events it has planned for today. The plans include a call for activists to "take matters into our own hands," and describe training classes in "police confrontation."
SEIU organizers from Kansas and Missouri are also on the scene. Anarchists have arrived wearing industrial masks underneath black handkerchiefs, in possible anticipation of tear gas and pepper spray.
UPDATE: A citizen journalist has emailed the photograph below, which shows two earpiece-wearing #OccupyChicago organizers surveying their handiwork. The man on the left appears to be Stephen Lerner of the SEIU.
[caption id="attachment_347968" align="aligncenter" width="635" caption="Stephen Lerner, at left?"][/caption]
UPDATE: Rep. Jan Schakowsky has shown up at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, together with political director Alex Armour (wearing a red "Solidarity" t-shirt--that's not a Starbucks coffee in his hands, is it?).
UPDATED: Police have turned out in larger-than-anticipated numbers. Activists attempted--thrice--to occupy the Hyatt Regency and were removed without arrests. Rep. Schakowsky addressed the crowd. Not since 1968 have the Democrats--in whole or in part--aligned themselves so closely and openly with the radical left.
UPDATED: Lerner and other activists are now staging an outdoor sit-in. Aerial photographs posted on Twitter suggest that turnout is somewhat smaller than the 7,500 that organizers had predicted, and nowhere near the 30,000 for which some activists had hoped.
UPDATED: A source on the scene has reported (6 pm Chicago time) that police have just told activists staging a sit-in outside the Art Institute that they must clear the street or they will be arrested. The unofficial crowd estimate is now in the range of 6,000-10,000 people.
UPDATE: Police have begun moving through the crowd, and multiple sources now report that the first arrests are under way amidst rising tension in the crowd.
UPDATE: Activists are now dispersing, with some arrests continuing and a few scuffles with police. The crowd, now estimated by sources to be about 2,000 (down from a new unofficial estimate of 5,000-7,500 at peak), is beginning to disperse.
UPDATE: About 300 activists remain in downtown Chicago, and have begun their "General Assembly" meeting. Stay tuned to Big Government for follow-up posts.
UPDATE: According to local news, Chicago Police have issued an official crowd estimate of 3,000. There were 24 arrests, one for battery to an officer.