At least 13 students, one professor, arrested in Occupy Chicago protests

The students and professor were arrested early Sunday morning when they refused to leave Grant Park as part of the ongoing Occupy Chicago protests.
Photo: Darren Leow
The Occupy Chicago evening march on Saturday evening halted momentarily as police stopped traffic along Michigan Avenue to allow protesters to pass.

More than a dozen students and a University professor were among the scores of people arrested and charged with a misdemeanor early Sunday morning while protesting in Grant Park as part of the Occupy Chicago demonstrations.

A total of 175 protesters were arrested when they refused to leave Grant Park after its 11 p.m. closing time—enough that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) had to appropriate CTA buses to transport them all to jail. An estimated 2,000 people marched in downtown Chicago on Saturday, while approximately 500 people set up tents in Grant Park.

Sociology Ph.D. student Peter Fugiel (A.B. ’07) was one of the arrested protesters.

“What impressed me was that this was very much a premeditated act of civil disobedience,” he said. “Unlike in New York, where they weren’t anticipating such a massive arrest and the police reacted very harshly, the people who stayed in the encampment knew they were going to be arrested and were determined to follow through. That made the action particularly powerful.”

Encounters between protesters and the police began last week, when CPD banned the collection bins that demonstrators had set up for donations on LaSalle Street, effectively preventing the protesters from staying in one place indefinitely, Fugiel said. The protesters chose Grant Park as a more permanent settlement during a Friday meeting of their general assembly.

Police first gave protesters the opportunity to leave Grant Park before arresting those who chose to remain, Fugiel said, calling the officers “respectful and very by-the-book.”

Photo: Courtesy of Zeynep Yavuz
A group of University of Chicago students join in the Occupy Chicago demonstrations and march down Jackson Street toward Grant Park Saturday evening.

The fact that many of the protesters deliberately planned on being arrested was central to the movement’s goals, according to fourth-year Jonathan Rodrigues, who was among those arrested.

“CPD didn’t want the media attention. But that’s what getting arrested does, that’s what we needed to do—to show the injustice of not being able to protest,” he said.

Fugiel described the mood of Saturday night and Sunday morning as “palpably enthusiastic” and said he heard protesters singing the Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” before the arrests occurred.

“It was a pleasant surprise: to have people cheering and standing in the rain to welcome people. It fit in with the general mood of the evening, which had been real camaraderie, almost celebratory. We would cheer and congratulate those who passed by the cells or even move into a different cell,” Fugiel said.

Fourth-year Kelvin Ho, who was arrested at a demonstration on Tuesday, was impressed with the U of C turnout.

“I was surprised by the amount of people that came out from UChicago,” he said. “It was a very big step, and I believe for most of them it was their first time, and it just goes to show you that people see that these issues are pertinent.” Ho left the park when asked by CPD, in order to avoid his second arrest in a week.

Sunday’s arrests were the first in Occupy Chicago’s 24 days of demonstrations and marked the largest U of C involvement in the protests thus far. Fugiel and other protesters, who declined to be named, estimated at least 30 University students and affiliates participated.

First-year Colette Robicheaux, who was also arrested, said that students should at least observe the Occupy movement firsthand, regardless of political affiliation.

“Everyone should go down and have an open mind and see what they’re talking about. It really is an exciting thing and it’s the first thing I’ve done all year that I’ve felt proud of. The biggest issue is to increase awareness,” Robicheaux said.

Fugiel said that people around the world were watching the protesters in Grant Park.

“What’s remarkable about the Occupy movement is that it’s drawn attention and captured imaginations in a way that larger demonstrations have not in the recent past. For our generation, this could be a turning point,” Fugiel said.

Assistant Professor in Philosophy Anton Ford, who was also arrested and who teaches “Introduction to Marx,” noted the historical significance of the protests.

“Lenin once said, ‘There are decades in which nothing happens and then there are weeks when decades happen.’ These last few weeks of Occupy, decades have happened,” Ford said.


—Additional reporting by Will Fernandez

  • Publius

    The lesson here is that the Maroon didn’t send a reporter and just relied on hearsay from activists instead.

    A few addenda I’d like to make:

    Fugiel’s account is incorrect: CPD officers gave the protesters who remained in Grant Park the option to leave even after they started emptying the plaza of tents. They in fact clearly presented the option to every protester they approached after the operation began. Saying that “175 protesters chose to get arrested” would therefore be just as accurate.

    You also forgot to mention that about half of the people who’d gathered in Grant Park also moved across Michigan before the police perimeter tightened so as to avoid having to make that choice. The decision to remain in Grant Park and confront the police was not made at the general assembly at night, but formed earlier in the day by a closed committee of top-level organizers. They deliberately misinformed the police (and some of the other attendees, who thought they were going to set up camp at a grassy lot elsewhere), and merely revealed their intentions and made exhortations at the GA.

    While we’re on the topic of things the Maroon left out, the GA on Saturday also offered a forum for some radical albeit unrelated speakers, including members of the communist party, paranoid, borderline militant anti-internationalists, and at least one bearded woodland creature openly called for violence against the police.

  • third year

    Glad to see UofC’s involvement. Let’s get some real financial reform, end the wars, and reverse the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy!

  • Peter Fugiel

    There are some misquotes in the article, in particular the bit about collection bins: I was referring to containers for supply storage, not donations. Also, it’s not clear in the above that the “welcome in the rain” episode happened after people were released from jail Sunday morning.

    Nevertheless, there is no ground for Publius to claim that I misrepresented the actions of the protestors in the encampment. My basic point was that–unlike on the mass arrest on Brooklyn Bridge where many protestors (at least reported that they) did not expect to be arrested–the 175 arrestees in Chicago chose to violate the ordinance as an act of civil disobedience. Call it “hearsay” if you wish, but I fail to see how this is an inaccurate account. Or did your vantage point from across the street afford you some special insight into our motivations?

    The most important oversight in the article, however, is the lack of any mention of the substantive issues being raised by the Occupiers. There may not be a single all-encompassing set of grievances, but here’s a short list to start with: three million home foreclosures last year with no end in sight, 24 million people unable to find enough or any work at all, systematic cuts in social services, all while major corporations and banks continue to make tens of billions of dollars in profits with the assistance of Democrats and Republicans who stand united on a platform of corporate welfare and public austerity.

  • Xenophon the Greek

    These protesting UC students are attending an elite university that costs upwards of $60K per year. If they are NOT receiving financial aid, then they are among the very rich whom the protesters are calling to be lynched. If they ARE receiving financial aid, then they are receiving it through the charity of wealthy alumni and other donors who have built the UC endowment large enough to financially support these students. Either way, the naïveté and cognitive dissonance evinced by these folks are mind-boggling. The fact that a professor was among them leads me to despair. Read a bit of history (especially 1920s Russia and 1930s China), Prof, and trust me on this one: if a mob like this ever comes to power, the “intelligentsia” like you will be the first to be go.

    • Taylor

      One could argue they support them and they need supported because the imbalance of money.

      I agree with some of the protest, but I agree about mobs. That and any revolution except our own had decades of worse off leaders. Cromwell and Robespierre anyone? Reform could be called for, both parties don’t offer much imo, but those yelling bromides of revolution — they painstakingly thinking that through? The structuring of America soundly compared to others was/is an anomaly.

      I’m more of a fan of Kan’ts “what is enlightenment” essay, to argue but obey, and having an active forum for reasoning publicly. Citizens have been too passive and not actively participating, not thinking for themselves.

      • SS

        Really Xenophon? Have you ever been to an OccupyChicago meeting? The group as a whole never called for the ‘lynching’ of rich people because they were rich. I recommend you libel other groups, not OccupyChicago.

    • Publius

      Mr. Fugiel, I was not referring to your observation about how Occupy Chicago’s tactics differed from what happened at OWS. I was simply pointing out that your account made it seem as if the option to leave was withdrawn long before the police operation began, which was plainly not the case.

      That the police addressed you as politely and professionally as they did should be a dead giveaway that they (and Rahm, too, since he was consulted on the decision) had no intention of charging into the PR trap the organizers so transparently laid. Occupy Chicago’s nonviolent confrontation could only have succeeded if the CPD went Bloody Sunday on the occupiers. By responding with proportionate force, the authorities reduced what could have been a galvanizing event for many to a display of juvenile affect by the few.

      • third year

        Publius – It sounds like you’re suggesting that the protestors should do something else entirely. “Occupy Chicago’s nonviolent confrontation could only have succeeded if the CPD…” Let’s congratulate the protestors on their nonviolence, not criticize them for it.

        • Publius

          And it sounds like you missed my point, Third Year. I’m neither urging the occupiers to abandon nonviolence, nor dismissing nonviolent protests as inconsequential. What I’m saying is that successful nonviolent protests hinge on the other side’s willingness to be violent, often in gross disproportion to the civility demonstrated by the protesters themselves–hence the Bloody Sunday reference. Absent a disproportionately forceful police response, nonviolent protests cannot generate meaningful political distinctions between an authoritarian establishment and a reasonable public.

      • Xenophon the Greek

        Right, “ss”–your escape clause there is, “the group AS A WHOLE never called for the lynching…”. Of course the group doesn’t OFFICIALLY call for that–they may be wrong, but they’re not stupid. However, the group also doesn’t officially remove the large number of its members/participants who do, in fact, call for violent revolution and even, in fact, “death to the rich” and “shoot the bankers.” A google image search will quickly show you all the evidence you need of that, in the form of signs carried openly by protesters in various Occupy demonstrations around the country. See also the first comment by Publius above, who personally witnessed, in Chicago, “members of the communist party, paranoid, borderline militant anti-internationalists, and at least one bearded woodland creature openly call[ing] for violence against the police.” Impugn my motives all you like, but it’s difficult to dispute the facts, unless you’re a sociology professor.

        • SS

          Ok, thank you for admitting you have never been to one OccupyChicago meeting. Since I have been to multiple OccupyChicago General Assemblies, I can speak with a bit more authority.

          Each occupation is centered around something called a General Assembly, a directly democratic and consensus based forum. Everything from logistics to formal grievances gets decided in these general assemblies. These meetings can be tedious since they require a 9/10 vote to pass almost anything, but they work.

          Through these general assemblies, each occupation votes on a list of demands. So contrary to your assumption, each occupation can and has made decisions as a WHOLE.

          Here are the current list of demands that OccupyChicago is currently debating:

          (Expect a lot more re-writes, more precise language, more stats, etc as we discuss these demands in the future general assemblies.)

          So yes, there are radical Marxists (not that being one is a bad thing), Ron Paul libertarians, environmentalists, anarchists, feminists, union workers, students…but most people are ‘normal’. They are just fed up with the fact that our government has double standards. It practices public austerity and extreme corporate welfare. Frankly, how can anyone not be fed up with this system?

  • Frenchy

    Dayum Gurl. You write so good.

    No but really. I can’t believe these people are arguing on your article. You’s a sexy bitch.

  • Veronica LaBarbera

    …Why hasn’t somebody occupied the Booth School of Business yet, other than the certain result of being ejected from the University’s private property? If you’ve ever looked at their walls, it’s a demonstration of the delusion about all the “good” uncontrolled free market capitalism and unregulated investment banking does for the world. Or occupy President Zimmer’s lobby, or the Econ Department. Implicate the forces, including that of this university, that nourish inequality in the US and the world, instead of keeping it to Grant Park.

  • Dont Taze Me Bro

    LOL The cognitive dissonance in this thread is unreal.

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