Lesley's Chicago

Lesley Wood (ap828@freenet.toronto.on.ca)
Thu, 5 Sep 1996 14:48:29 -0500


Well the Festival of the Oppressed was amazing. I'd been dropping by all
week to help construct dozens of these puppets. The general story line
had been worked out by Wise Fool Puppet Intervention - a team of folks
from San Fransisco who had also been organizing dance classes in the
mornings. The puppet intervention seemed a great way to express a clear
message to the community in a non-confrontational manner.

In the morning of the festival of the oppressed, I went with some folks
from Oregon and Washington to hang with the local community kids. We made
paper plate puppets and bag masks and did face painting. Lots of people from
the eighbourhood came out to have fun and ignore the helicopter circling
overhead. After a few hours of fun, we got into formation for the piece
and headed into the local neighbourhood, a good mix of local people and
AR participants.
So. Maybe I can describe the piece. There was a large tower, maybe 18 feet
tall whose sides were plastered with multinational logos like IBM,
MacDonalds etc. The tower
wore a tie and was controlling the two gruesome puppets of Dole and
Clinton that flanked it. Pulling the tower was 30 or so workers,
consumers, taxpayers and voters - all with appropriate tags. On either
side of the tower strutted large CIA and politician puppets and huge
pig/cops mingling with the crowd. Behind the tower came the single
mothers (replete with babies), the natural elements like fire and water and
animals.

The police presence was very high. From the beginning, we had mounted cop
escort. It got heavier and heavier, with all sides of the parade being
surrounded. It became obvious that they did not take kindly to this
puppet manifestation. They tried to separate the group, but especially
because we had a lot of local kids with us, we kept together. They
arrested people who looked like "leaders" or organizers and one fellows
foot was stepped on by a horse. The horses (poor things) did NOT like the
puppets and kept rearing and panicking.

We kept going. At a key moment in the route (a major intersection), the
walls of the tower were pulled down, revealing the four visions our core
workshops had developed
including community gardens, justice, collective bookshops, and a clean
environment. Out came the goddess-warriors to dance about.

We made it back to the park and the 200 or so of us had a hungry meeting
about whether we should go directly to the police station to support
those arrested, or whether we should get the food that Seeds of Peace had
made us first. Amazing facilitators seemed to get us to a decision - we
would go to the police station. So we did. An even more freaky looking
bunch than usual, with face and body paint on top of dreads, dirt and
piercings.

At the police station we milled about. The lawyers we had supporting us
changed their minds - we should go somewhere else and wait for a bit. So
off we trooped to a local tacqueria for veggie burritos and beans and
rice. Amazing and cheap place coped well with the 200 or so costumed riff
raff we seemed to appear. Then back to the police station where motorists
were asked to "Honk for Justice" as we hung out. Regular procedure seemed
to mean that many of those who had been picked up wouldn't be released
for 24 hours or so.

So I took off with another friend from Toronto, making our way back to
the "Spice Factory" the space that we were staying. When we arrived, we
noticed paddy wagons around the corner. I mentioned this to the security
at our space and not wanting to blow things out of proportion, went to a
local pool for a shower and swim (trying to hide the body paint that
wouldn't come off without soap).

When we returned to the Spice Factory, only twenty minutes later, a major
evacuation was in process. Cops without badges had entered "The Ballroom"
the space where food and puppets were created, had pepper sprayed people
randomly, taken folios and lists from the walls.

At the same time, over 100 cops had massed around the corner from the
Spice Factory. So everything was removed in record time, people were
loaded into any moving vehicle and taken to another location. As I was on
a bike I had borrowed for the week, I rode with 8 or so others furiously.
It was exciting. We didn't know about the macing yet, so it just seemed a
big game of cops and robbers.

At the other location, I put my bike into one of the school buses that
had been organized so quickly. We were being taken to a "secret
location". No names given for a very real threat of infiltrators. We
learned that the cops had raided "CounterMedia" the alternative media
space and the "Festival of Life" another countercultural event happening
in Chicago. In both places, arrests had been made.

At our "secret location", people buzzed with excitement. Convoys were
sent out to the Young Democrats Party that various AR participants had
crashed. So along they came, confused and somewhat tipsy, dressed in
regulation crumpled ties and clutching half full bottles of
Jagermeister from the party. Forays were made to the local store and
beer was purchased. Dogs yipped. Twenty vegan pizzas arrived and we
settled in for a night without electricity, (but with running water!) We
tried to keep quiet, but the cops still showed up outside but just sat
there, watching us and asking questions to anyone who emerged.

The next morning, our grimy bunch slowly awoke, fringing the big
room like the edge of a hippies poncho. A meeting was called to discuss
our plans. Many people decided to leave town that day. Those that didn't
or couldn't want to leave didn't really want to go back to the Spice
Factory. We would be billeted in the houses of the kind folks of Chicago
for the last two days.

A casual final evaluation was attempted. So, what did you think of AR?
The best, the worst and what could be changed. Generally, people were
happy. Well organized, came out again and again. Too much to do. Hard to
get involved if you arrived late. Great sense of community. Great food.
Good free skool. Too white. Not enough music. Amazing mix of people from
everywhere. Great speakers. I agreed. I thought the only main flaw was
people not appreciating the organizers enough. They had obviously
committed their lives to this for a good long time.

So we cleaned up and headed into the west end again.
Over the next couple of days we partied, played anarcho-soccer, evaluated,
and relaxed. Ah. Now I'm sick with a cold. Surprise, surprise.
Wish you'd been here. Lovel.