More News from Chicago

Jesse Hirsh (
Sat, 31 Aug 1996 10:49:41 -0400 (EDT)

7:30 p.m. August 29, 1996

Chicago Police cracked down today on CounterMedia, a collective of media
activists covering the protests at the Democratic National Convention in
Chicago, and on other protesters around town. At about one o=92clock in th=
afternoon some 200 activists in Chicago to attend Active Resistance, a
national convention of anarchists that has been occurring here since August
21, gathered in Wicker Park for the "Festival of the Oppressed" (the march
was *not* arranged by the A.R. organizers). Puppeteers had been working fo=
several days on a tremendous piece of puppet/guerrilla theater =96 a huge w=
"corporation" tower with an arm on either side holding painted heads of
Clinton and Dole. Two dozen worker/slaves pulled the corporation and dozen=
of =96 "immigrants," "minorities," "single mothers," trailed behind, "crush=
by the tower. About 200 anarchists led the piece of theater on a march
through the Wicker Park area of town. Dozens upon dozens of Chicago Police
surrounded the march as it wound its way through the streets. There was no
permit for the march but it was very peaceful =96 no incendiary chants, act=
or problems.

There were police there, however =96 "the appropriate amount," according to
police spokesman Paul Jenkins. About =BD hour into the march those police
began to make sporadic arrests. First they arrested a CounterMedia
videographer and an A.R. participant who were walking slightly ahead of the
march. The CounterMedia videographer was talking on one of the
walkie-talkie/radios that CounterMedia has used to coordinate coverage.
Police took his camera and radio. More police closed in. This changed th=
tenor of the march tremendously and made everyone extremely tense, but the
marchers continued, arms linked, surrounded on all sides by police. Shortl=
before the march reached the intersection of North, Damen and Milwaukee, tw=
CounterMedia members were standing on the corner, one speaking on her radio
the other videotaping the scene. Police pointed to them and then swarmed i=
They arrested the female and confiscated her radio but the male dashed off=
eluding officers. When the march reached the corner police surrounded it.
That was the perfect point for the climax of the theater, as the corporati=
walls fell and out of it ran the "liberated" people of the world. The
anarchists greeted this part of the theater with tremendous cheers and then
slowly marched the final block back to Wicker Park.

At the Park the anarchists had a collective meeting about how to handle the
arrests. They reached consensus to go down to the precinct where police ha=
taken those who were arrested and about 50 of them set off. The park was
relatively empty after they took off, leaving a couple dozen marchers who
were putting away the puppets and five members of CounterMedia. There were
still police units on every corner. The CounterMedia members, two
videographers, a member of the print team and two video stringers, thought
that the police may be waiting for them. The stringers, who had not been
actively involved in CounterMedia coverage, felt that they were safe and we=
to their motorcycle to bring their tape back to the CounterMedia office. T=
three remaining members stood between them and a police cruiser parked acro=
the street so that the officer, if he was watching, would not see the
stringers place their video camera under one of their jackets. Soon after
the stringers left the surveillance cruisers moved out. The three remainin=
members walked without incident to the Burger King a block away and waited
there for about an hour, after which they proceeded by el back to the
CounterMedia office. When they arrived they discovered that police had
arrested the two stringers on the motorcycle. CounterMedia assumes that th=
police believed that the three remaining members had passed their radio and
camera to the stringers.

At this moment, there are 10 members of CounterMedia and 5 A.R. participant=
in custody for various charges. About 50 A.R. participants are at the poli=
office where those arrested have been taken. Apparently in the last day
Chicago police have also arrested David Dellinger and Andrew Hoffman (son o=
Abbie), two of the planners of the Festival of Life, and this afternoon
arrested four more Festival planners. The Festival of Life arrestees are o=
an holding a press conference, according to the most recent reports.
CounterMedia, Active Reistance and those with convetion-related problems
from the housing projects are not "big name" organizers and therefore will
need a lot more community support.

PLEASE pass this information around as quickly and as widely as possible. =
help please call the CounterMedia office at (312) 243-8342, though realize
that the phone will be quite busy. For solid documentation of Tuesday=92s
CounterMedia arrests and information from today as much as we are able, che=
out the web site at "".

More subjective, very immediate impressions: (If you are posting the info i=
this message to any type of "news" service, you may have more of a chance
getting it up there if you exclude the commentary.)

All I can say, in pure non-journalistic non-objective terms, is that things
are nuts here. So far the big story in the media about the DNC has been th=
there are no protests here, that the police have been friendly and that
everyone has been having a good time. The truth is that there have been lo=
of protests but they have been relatively small, numerically speaking, and
though not at all lacking in tension there have been no terribly violent
police run-ins reported (some grabbing and shoving but not baton-beating).
Police have consciously not arrested protesters who have done civil
disobedience and even barely lifted an eyebrow when a handful of anarchists
burned a flag in front of the United Center (the one photo from the Not on
the Guest List march that appeared in all the newspapers, at least here).
The further truth is that CounterMedia, A.R. and residents of Chicago=92s
public housing have been subject to surveillance, intimidation and in some
cases even arrests (read below press release from yesterday for more info)
throughout the convention. The truth is, also, that CounterMedia is a
collective of *reporters* who came to Chicago to cover the protests here,
just as any mainstream reporter would cover any event, since we figured tha=
the mainstream media would not do it, that Active Resistance was a series o=
workshops, seminars and discussions about community, political and social
theory attended by 600 anarchists who, while politically active and
enthusiastic to march, spent as more time in workshops than in the streets
protesting, that the Festival of Life has been (IMHO) very unincendiary, an=
that the residents of the projects will be subject to the most long-term
repercussions of any of the aforementioned groups, because somehow everythi=
always turns out that way. I=92m a freelance journalist who came to Chicag=
o to
do what I usually do =96 report on interesting activism and demonstrations =
try to sell a couple articles. That=92s what CounterMedia was planning to =
and that=92s what CounterMedia did. Your guess is as good as mine as to wh=
everyone is in jail. =20

Unfortunately, I have to be back east tomorrow to work on a story so I=92m
leaving tonight. I won=92t make any more on scene reports, though I=92ll t=
ry to
make sure that someone will. Until then, peace and safe travels to everyon=
and be careful where you go with that video camera. You may be taping
something that certain people simply don=92t want anyone else to see.

Happy trails,

Jay ( =20

Yesterday's urgent alert..
Wednesday, August 28
Chicago police raid mobile command center of CounterMedia, a collective of
media activists covering the protests at the Democratic National Convention
in Chicago, soon after two members of the collective are arrested. Press
conference at 10 am tomorrow at 1638 W. Van Buren. =20


At approximately 3:45 this afternoon, more than a dozen Chicago police pull=
over and illegally searched a van filled with six members of CounterMedia, =
collective of media activists who are providing alternate coverage of the
protests, demonstrations and alternative events at the Democratic National
Convention. Less than ten minutes after allowing the CounterMedia members =
go, more police forced the van onto the side of the road and commanded thos=
inside to get out. They ordered the six collective members up against the
van and searched them as they proceeded to board it. When asked why they
pulled the vehicle over, an officer responded that those inside were not
wearing their seatbelts. As one officer exposed film from a CounterMedia
photographer=92s still camera, others claimed that they could arrest the
collective members for having an unsafe vehicle; the police only fell back
when nine other media collective members arrived on the scene and began
filming the incident. CounterMedia has placed image captures from the
incident onto the CounterMedia web site at

This incident is only the most recent in a string of confrontations the
Chicago Police Department, supposedly "kinder and gentler" at this Democrat=
National Convention, have forced with CounterMedia. Yesterday morning the
CPD arrested a CounterMedia videographer during a tension-filled
pro-choice/Operation Rescue clinic defense demonstration. The videographer=
Eddy Nix of Wisconsin, was taping pro-lifers (in the immediate vicinity of
other members of the media) when they, sensing that Nix was not with the
mainstream press, motioned to the police that he should be removed. Police
checked Nix=92s press pass and deemed it insufficient to prove that he was =
member of the "official" media. They carried him forcefully into the paddy
wagon and charged him with disorderly conduct. Other CounterMedia
videographers documented Nix=92s arrest as well and have placed image captu=
from the incident onto the CounterMedia web site at

Last night, as ConterMedia videographer Jeff Perlstein waited for the "Not =
the Guest List" march/rally to arrive at the heavily secure United Center,
home to the Democratic National Convention, he interviewed two
African-American youth from the Henry Horner Homes. (The Homes are a publi=
housing project located directly across the street from the Center.) As
Perlstein was asking the youth what they thought about Democratic delegates
invading their neighborhood, police ordered the youth off the sidewalk. Wh=
Perlstein questioned why the police specifically demanded the youth off the
sidewalk and not him, a white videographer, officers took him into custody
and charged him with disorderly conduct. Other CounterMedia videographers
documented his arrest.

Though the mainstream media have lauded the Chicago Police for their
hands-off treatment of protesters at the DNC, the CPD=92s harassment of
CounterMedia is part of a pattern of untoward "attention" police have paid =
those obviously unwanted here. Members of the CPD have been consistently
intimidating participants of Active Resistance, a national convention of
anarchists that has been occurring here since August 21. Police have visit=
the site of the convention workshops several times and have held the buildi=
under regular surveillance, occasionally photographing participants as they
pass to and from the site. Also, the Chicago Housing Authority has imposed=
10pm curfew on residents at the Henry Horner Homes for the duration of the
convention and has subjected residents to sweeps and arrests for questionab=
conduct. CounterMedia is closely connected with Active Resistance and has
been actively reporting the truth about the increased security at Horner.

Tomorrow morning at 10am (Chicago time), at its office at 1638 Van Buren
Street (just four blocks from the United Center), CounterMedia will be
holding a press conference with Active Reistance and residents of the Horne=
homes. Please spread word of these incidents as quickly as possible and
certainly alert any contacts you have in Chicago that CounterMedia, Active
Resistance and the Horner residents need their support.

For more information contact CounterMedia at (312) 243-8342 and/or check ou=
the web site at "".