A diverse crowd of chanting protesters gathered in front of the Chicago Board of Trade building Saturday evening to express anger towards the wealthy “1 percent” of America and the banking system.
Mothers with babies, elderly men and college students stood on either side of West Jackson Boulevard, leaning up against walls, waving signs and banners, and beating on bottoms of blue pails. A 300-person crowd chanted back, “Occupy Chicago!” to the amplified shout of “People over profits!” coming from a large speaker across from the building. Cars, buses and police cars honked their horns and drivers waved their hands when passing the street in support of the protesters.
Albert Cipriani, 58, said he was protesting because “this is the first time in my life that there’s been a movement that expresses the profound pissed-off-ness of me at a fundamental level. It’s not just the Republicans against the Democrats – it’s not all that peripheral crap which the bankers love you to focus on. It’s grassroots, and it’s going after the central problem – the Central Bank,” he said.
Lisa Junco, 50, said she was also angry with the banks. “I’m basically here because I’m tired of all of the corporate greed,” she said. “The banks are not lending to small and medium sized businesses which could help stimulate the economy. They are also foreclosing on homes – sometimes illegally – and are not making much of an effort to work out payment plans to help keep people in their homes. They’re not helping out people or the economy at all. It’s just reckless greed. It won’t stop until more people have their voices heard,” she said. This was the third time she came to an Occupy Chicago event, she said. “This was kind of an awakening for me. I think I’m going to be more involved now,” Junco said.
Saturday was the first Occupy Chicago experience for Alison Victor, 30, and Sonia Brown, 24. Both Victor and Brown said that they were worried about their college tuition debt. “It’s a lot of money and it’s scary,” Brown said. Victor agreed and said, “I’m hoping that when I’m done with school it’ll be better. I have hope – I’m remaining optimistic.”
Money was also an issue for William Koehl, 60. He used to be a printer but “what happened to the newspaper business happened to the printing business 10 years earlier,” he said, so he is currently unemployed and has no health insurance.
Cipriani also said he lost his job as a technical writer in California. “They’re bulldozing homes in Riverside, California. And they’re boarded up and emptied. I was unemployed for three friggin’ years. I’d worked 20 some years as a hot-shot writer, okay, and it’s all dried up. That’s why I’m here in Chicago – that’s how bad it is,” he said.
Some protesters described their own solution to the economic problem. “We take control of our money supply, which is getting rid of the Federal Reserve, that’s how we do it,” Cipriani said. Koehl said we need a “rational transition” from Japanese to German trade policy, and therefore more regulation.
As the night grew darker, the crowd grew to about 1000 people, making maneuvering through the dense crowds difficult. Later, at about 7 p.m., the protesters began to march toward The Horse, according to occupychi.org.
Until then, protesters continued to rally, including 13-year-old Kyle Johnson. “I feel really fired up because,” Johnson paused, bursting into excited laughter, “it’s like this huge thing. Everyone’s really making noise and holding up signs. I’m definitely glad I came,” he said.
**written October 25th, 2011**