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Monday, May 28, 2012

Nato Protest

It was a Sunny May Day on the day that I went to Grant Park to protest NATO.  Police and the media were making a big deal of things and warning people not to go downtown because of the gridlock that would inevitably occur due to the protest and the transport of the NATO conference members.  While people were warned away, it did strike me as funny as I walked through the Loop and saw almost nothing open.  I will grant that the protest that I attended was on a Sunday and many places in the Loop don't open but this was like a ghost town.  There was one business that I saw open as I walked to the park from where I parked my bike (I parked my bike outside the Loop in the event that things did get bad so I wouldn't have to worry about it).  The one open business was a Starbucks and it was doing a bang up business with everyone.  While there were many issues people had (and many protests), the focus of the protest that I attended was one of peace.  There was going to be a ceremony at the end of the march in which many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were going to "return" their medals.  As a veteran of the first Gulf War, I agree very strongly with this and I wanted to go to stand in solidarity with them. 

While I am a veteran of the Navy who served during the first Gulf War, I am also a pacifist.  So why does a pacifist join the Navy (or the military in general?  I can't speak for all pacifists but I joined in order to help myself pay for college.  I joined during peace time (even though we were at the end of the Cold War) and from what I could see, it didn't look like we were going to see any action.  When Iraq invaded Kuwait, I hoped that things could be worked out peacefully and I was very disappointed when the fighting started.  I was on an LPD, an auxiliary ship with no offensive weapons but carried Marines and their landing craft so they could make an amphibious landing if it was necessary.  While our mission was to stand off the coast threateningly, we did not do a landing.  That does not mean that we didn't have any casualties or have to deal with a constant threat level.  In any case, we made it through and I finished my service in 1992 at a time when it seemed that we were reducing our military size.  This, I thought, was a very good thing.  I am proud of my service but I think that our military has become too active.  I have been somewhat active in the anti-war movement for many years.  I have been to many protests although I have only been arrested once.  Getting arrested has never been a goal for me for any of the protests that I have attended although after having it happened, I am not afraid to risk it.  I do let friends and family know that there is a risk that I may be arrested so if they don't hear from me to start looking.

The protest was to start at Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park.  When I arrived (just before 10 am when events were to start), there was a line of media trucks parked at the curb and a bunch of people ready for the event.  There were some police there but it wasn't overwhelming. The veterans were, for the most part, gathered as a group across the street from the music shell.  The schedule of events had two hours of music (including Tom Morello from Rage against the Machine as The Nighwatchman) followed by a series of speakers and then the march at the end of which there would be a ceremony where the veterans would introduce themselves, explain why they were there, and why they were giving up their medals.  It was supposed to be very peaceful if dissident in it's view point.  There were some black bloc anarchists there so it was obvious to me that there was going to be some conflict although I was going to try to avoid that if possible.

The program started and it was pretty nice even if they did have sound issues in the beginning.  The musicians played a variety of styles although it was all basically protest music.  Because of the sound issues, a few of the musicians did their songs via mic check (using the crowd as their microphone) and Tom Morello took it one step further and joined the veterans (who had joined the crowd).  After the musicians came the speakers and there were many speakers.  There were many issues addressed but it all essentially came down to the idea that the money spent on military actions by NATO and their individual countries could be spent better elsewhere.  Along the same lines is the same idea that because so much money is spent on the military, the powers that be feel obligated to use it much more often than is actually necessary (If your only tool is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail).  And collateral damage is much more than those people that are injured and killed in an actual battle setting.

The speakers ended and the people lined up for the march.  For the most part, this was fine but the black bloc wanted to try to make a rush at McCormick Place where the conference was being held so they made a push to get to the front but they were kept back.  From where I was walking, things stayed pretty peaceful for the journey to the end of the march.  I heard later that there were a few clashes between the black bloc and the police who were lining the route but I didn't see it.  The march ended about 1/2 a mile from McCormick Place and the veterans did their thing.  To me, it was very moving.  It reminded me of videos I have seen of the Viet Nam protest in 1971 in which the VVAW (including future Sen. John Kerry) gave their medals back on the steps of Congress.  At the end, they did ask people to leave peacefully which most people were happy to do.  There was, however, the black bloc group that might have numbered 100 people that shouted "NATO is east" after the police gave us the option of leaving to the west or the south.  These people were kids, probably late teens to mid-20s for the most part, who were simply looking for trouble and wanted to be contrary.  While I don't fault the police for their actions against these people (for the most part), I have to wonder what the black bloc would have done if they hadn't faced any resistance.

My journey home was uneventful although it was a long walk back to my bike.  It would have been possible to take the el back to the Loop but when I left my house I decided to pack light and didn't bring anything with me in the event that things would have gone bad and I would have been arrested.  I didn't want to risk losing my money and I didn't think there was a point to having my ID on me because when I did get arrested and I did have my ID, the police still got my name wrong (I was named Kenneth Gary Grice).  I did joke with my friends later that it might have been better to have been arrested because the police station that they brought the arrestees to was within walking distance of my house.  At the end of the day, I was tired, sunburned, and gratified that I was able to go out and stand with people who believe like I do that war is not the answer.    

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I'm Moving

No, I am not physically moving but I am moving the address where I do my main blog. This has been my main blog for two years and I do have a few people that read it regularly, but more of my friends visit my MySpace page so I will begin doing my main blog there. I may post here occasionally but if you want to find out more regularly what is on my mind visit me on MySpace.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Judge

I posted early yesterday with not much to say because I worked as an election judge and I knew when I finished, that I would be too tired to say anything. I did say what I thought was the most important thing for yesterday by telling people to go out and vote. Polls were open from 6 AM to 7 PM so I had to be there from 5:15 AM until we finished. We did get one break but it was still a very long day. We finished packing up and cleaning the voting area just before 8 PM and then two of us took the results to the township hall for tabulation. I got home at 8:30 PM. We processed 313 voters (which was about 55% of the eligible voters in that precinct) and referred about another 10 to their proper polling place. From what I have heard, it seems that our amazingly trouble-free shift was the exception rather than the rule. We had no equipment breakdowns and the only problem was when we seemes to lose a couple of the special pens used for marking the paper ballots. We were giving them the pens without caps so that people would be less inclined to walk off with them, but it seemed, at the time that a couple of people did. We made a trouble call and received two new pens and shortly thereafter the two missing pens reappeared. While the results were, for the most part, as I had hoped, in reality I don't expect any major changes in the direction we are going any time soon.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

I have one thing to say to all registered voters. Vote. I don't care who you vote for, just go out and do it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Chicago Humanities Festival

The Chicago Humanities Festival started this last Thursday and I have been busy volunteering and attending events. Things started on Thursday with a talk by Paul Krugman, an economist from Princeton, an op-ed writer for the New York Times, and author of The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century. The theme of this year's festival is Peace and War: Facing Human Conflict and Prof. Krugman gave a short economic history of the industrial United States and a comparison of how wars are fought in times of greater disparity of wealth (There tends not to be a shared sacrifice when there is a greater disparity of wealth).

Friday was domestic day because I knew that I was going to be busy all weekend. Saturday, I was at the Chicago History Museum to volunteer for a couple of events, Steven Kinzer talking about his new book Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. I was unable to hear most of his talk but what I did see/hear seemed very interesting. I may pick up his book. The second event was a law debate between an appellate judge and an aprofessor at the University of Chicago School of Law debating Rights During War Time. This debate was so popular that about 40 people had to be turned away. When I finished, I had almost 4 hours to kill before the panel discussion I was going to was to start at teh Chicago Cultural Society. So, I wandered down to kill time and find a place to eat that sounded interesting. I ended up eating at Chipotle which wasn't exactly what I was looking for but it worked. At 4 PM, I went to Teaching a Culture of Peace and Justice with Kathy Kelly who never fails to tear me up when I hear her speak, along with Shayna Plaut, a Human Rights professor at Columbia College and Midwest Region Human Rights Education Coordinator for Amnesty International USA, and fellow educator Louis Silverstein. It was a very good talk.

Today (Sunday), I ushered at the Symphony Center for an interview with Joyce Carol Oates, who was the winner of the 2006 Chicago Tribune Literary Prize. While I have never read anything by Joyce Carol Oates (and I still don't know that I will after finding out what she has written), it was interesting to hear her talk about her work, how she got into it, and how she sees it. After I finished, I had two hours to grab lunch and go about a mile to my next event was a panel discussion called Peace Through Justice and the discussion was about whether international tribunals, the International Criminal Court, and other tools of law could promote peace, and act as a deterrent and it appeared as if the answer was a qualified yes. While you can't expect a miraculous transformation, it does seem to help in instances of extreme human rights violations.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A little out of order

I would normally talk about my weekend (if I did anything during the weekend) on my first post of the week. As I voted yesterday however, I felt that was more important. Having said that, I did have an eventful weekend. On Saturday, I went to a discussion on Saturday at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park about genetically modified food. It was a talk sponsored by the Illinois Humanities Council as part of their Future Perfect: Conversations on the Meaning of the Genetics Revolution series. The talk was moderated by a food historian and featured a geneticist and an ethicist talking about the issues surrounding genetically modified food. The talk was neither pro nor con, it simply brought up the issues and let people make up their own minds on how they felt about the topic. They also brought up issues that, while they are not genetically modified issues, have been tied to the overall issue, like the loss of biological diversity, globalization, and who really benefits from the production of genetically modified foods. I don't have a problem with genetically modified foods as long as the research has been done by a credible establishment that indicates that they are safe for human consumption. There were some people there however, that had already made up their minds against GMO before even the talk began and there was nothing that anyone was going to say that was going to change their mind. After the talk, I went to the Gin Mill for lunch and watched MSU get stomped on by Indiana.

I had an early evening on Saturday because I had to get up early on Sunday. I was volunteering with One Brick at Montrose Harbor for a 5K and 10K race. We worked from 8-11 AM at the refreshment tables serving water, Gatorade, bananas, energy bars, and candy. I ran into a few people that I get along well with and enjoy the company of. After we were done we went to lunch. While my sense of time was a little messed up because of the time change and because I had to get up early on Sunday, it was a good day.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Election Day

Today was election day for me. I voted because I will be working as an election judge outside of my precinct so I will not be able to vote then. While I did research most posts, I was a little lacking in the lesser positions of county government. I did however look at the judges ratings from various bar associations to try to determine who the people that worked with the judges most thought were the most qualified for their positions. Being a liberal Democrat, I could have just walked in and voted for a straight Democratic ticket. But I don't think a one party government is good anywhere. For those positions that I voted for that I felt informed, I did examine all candidates. As it was, I didn't vote a straight party line which is all that I am going to reveal because I don't think it's anyone's business.

Now that I have voted, I can spend the next week reading my election judge book. I don't think it will be a terribly hard job, but I do think that I should be as prepared as I can be. I do plan on brining my book with me, but it will help, if I have a problem, to have an idea as to where to look.

I hope that everyone qualified, takes their responsibility seriously and votes. This is a very important election.