Don’t make waves. Have there ever been more ominous words?
Day after day on my radio show in Chicago I pound the desk advocating the complete overthrow o the American government-one vote, one protest at a time. I want to know where are the Moral Monday protests in Chicago and across the nation?
I am incensed that our politicians are naked agents for a corporate subversion of our constitution and security, and that the police assert more and more on their institutionalized effort to control dissent. In a righteous world I would see 100,000 citizens surrounding the offices of co-opted public servants to remove them from office and march them off to jail for crimes against the people and the constitution. The police who uphold their oath to serve and protect the people would maintain the respect and honor from those people. Those who do not, and who remain the force mechanism of control at the behest of money interests, would likewise be arrested and marched off to jail with the other cronies. The world did not absolve Nazis who claimed to simply be following orders, and yes, it has gotten almost to that point.
That would be in a righteous world, if it was really about the law. That’s what I believe, but that’s not what I said following last week’s May Day protests.
A few weeks earlier Brian and I had Ze Garcia on the show as a guest. Ze is a young local immigration activist facing deportation. He is part of the “dream” generation; children brought to America for a better life by their parents. This is Ze’s home. It is the only home he has ever known. His “illegal” status is not genetic in nature. It is an abstract; a legal and political construct crafted to legitimize the power of the state, like slavery and preventing women from having the vote. It is not something written in stone or mandated by God. I looked in the Bible, Koran and Torah. Can’t find it anywhere. Moses fled Egypt and was never designated illegal. Columbus landed in someone else’s country… So it is easy to understand why Ze feels betrayed. On May Day Ze and a friend were arrested.
“Its impossible to separate labor and immigration issues,” Brian told me after our Saturday show this week. That statement resonated with me, along with, “You can’t shut out labor groups and dominate the message on f#$%ing May Day.” Truly, it is their Christmas of sorts.
On May Day 2014 a coalition of labor and immigrant rights groups rallied in Haymarket Square on Chicago’s near west side. The place is ubiquitous for a rally for an 8 hour workday as well for several workers earlier killed by police that turned deadly on May4th 1886. A bomb blast and gunfire from police saw 7 police and scores of civilians dead and wounded. Dominating the diverse coalition at Haymarket last week were members from the Service Employees International Union and the ICIRR, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
Obvious in the images and video from the day are the vested members of ICIRR and SEIU maintaining order, and seeming to play apart in Ze’s arrest, or at the very least attempting to keep him corralled within the very orderly parade. And here is where things get a bit weird, for Ze, but also for me.
In my opinion, and by viewing as much video and stills as possible, Ze was agitating, and the White Middle-aged Suburban Male in me (I live in the city, by the way) reacted blindly with why was it necessary to agitate and start trouble for no reason? The criticism from various groups that day was that ICIRR and SEIU had acted as if they were in charge of the protest, and there’s the rub.
On the show yesterday Brian and a guest were deeply critical of groups acting in service to the authorities. I countered that even Occupy employed monitors to keep people in line. They were also there for the NATO protest in 2012, but I personally witnessed and documented, as with the anti-ALEC protest last summer that the police were eager and even proactive in creating violence as an institutional strategy to attract a willing corporate Press to shift the message of protests to violence.
And so I pondered all of this through the day and came away with some simple conclusions. There are no safe protests, nor should there be. A safe protest is a parade, and parades accomplish nothing. And don’t throw the Civil Rights marches at me. Having met and talked with many civil rights activists, there was always a line in the sand, and the importance of the Black Panthers and Malcolm X was that they stood watch on that line. “Power concedes nothing without demand,” said Frederick Douglas. By monitoring ourselves we concede to and become part of the State Control apparatus. As I recently argued on the show, the most successful and insidious type of censorship is self-censorship.
It is not that agitation becomes the distraction. The distraction comes from the unchecked power of the state when it no longer is a resource for the people, but instead becomes their rulers. It is not the “absurdity” of beating drums, Guy Fawkes masks or indignant chants, it is the absurdity of a media that is no longer a Fourth estate separate and antagonistic to power, privilege and corruption, but when that media becomes the Public Relations function for them. Protests and movements that champion human dignity, rights and respect for all must begin peacefully enough, but implied in their outrage and passion must always reside to the powerful, the privileged and the corrupt the unmistakable promise that the people will find justice one way of the other.
There is a saying that goes like this: when I was a young man I was filled with passion and Liberal, but then I grew wise and became a conservative. That line is a sad excuse for the Middle-aged Suburban White Guy in all of us, and a sign that we have given up the fight…
WC Turck is the author of 4 books, including the critically acclaimed Bosnian War Memoir “Everything for Love,” and Broken: One soldier’s unexpected journey home, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. Turck wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart: A Revolutionary Christmas Carol” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He can be heard weekdays from 9-11am, and 1-3pm on the Revolution and Beer show with partner and cohost BL Murray.