Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Covering Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

I was looking up something else last night when I stumbled across it—the cover of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Not only is the record—old timers will remember those—usually at the top of lists of the greatest albums of all time with its psychedelic orchestrations, segues, and themes, but he cover itself is iconic.

Maybe the most breathlessly anticipated release ever, record stores—remember those—were jammed on the June 1, 1967 release date.  I hopped on the Skokie Swift and headed to the City where I obtained a copy at Rose Records on Wabash Avenue, then the Mecca for music loving teens. 

I was 18 years old and had just graduated from high school.  I was spending my summer washing dishes at Howard Johnson’s, trying to struggle through Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, a summer reading assignment before I started Shimer College that fall, and listening to that record in my basement room.  I studied the lyrics printed on the back.  I listened intently.  I was in awe.

But the full power of the record did not hit me until I arrived on campus in Mt. Carroll.  I quickly discovered it was on every turntable in every dorm room I visited.  The same rooms also seemed to offer unlimited supplies of marijuana, hash pipes, and an assortment of the latest and most powerful hallucinogens.  Within a couple of weeks I went from being a clean cut, if semi-radical kid in a cowboy hat to a dope fiend and hippy.  I couldn’t have been more pleased.
A good deal of that first semester was spent listening to St. Pepper’s experimentally to different grades, combinations, and concoctions of illicit drugs and cheep beer.   It also meant hours of staring intently at that cover trying to unravel its many deep mysteries.  I studied it by candle light, flickering strobe, black light, dorm fluorescents, and even in the bright sunshine of the Quad when someone would turn their giant speakers to their room window and blast the album at full volume for the communal experience of the masses.

Try as I could, I could only identify some of the faces on that cover, although I knew they all must have cosmic significance.  Others had the same quest.  We swapped our knowledge or our guesses and passed around clippings from underground newspapers but still fell far short.  

Eventually shiny new toys came out to divert our attention.  The great old album would get pulled out sometimes for a play, but we would only glance again at the cover.

So when I saw the cover again I thought that after all of these years, experience, and a life as a history and pop culture geek, I should do far better at picking out those pictures than way back then.  So I gave it a try.
This is what I could come up with.

In front surrounding the Beatles flower planting--Hindu Goddess front, unidentified Japanese figure, Disney Snow White figurine, bust of T. E. Lawrence, unidentified doll, Shirley Temple Doll dressed in “Welcome Rolling Stones” sweater.  

Front row—Sonny Liston, the Fab Four from Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, the Lads as Sgt. Pepper’s Band, Marlene Dietrich, the real Shirley Temple, obscured Turk, Dianna Doors.

Second row—Pin-up girl, Eddie Foy, Lucile Ball, Marlon Brando, Tom Mix, Oscar Wilde, unidentified, unidentified, Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan, six unidentified heads, Lewis Carroll.

Third Row—Former Beatle Stuart Sutcliff, an American GI,  Dylan Thomas, seven unidentified heads, and the real T. E. Lawrence as Lawrence of Arabia

Fourth Row—Four unidentified heads, Tony Curtis, two unidentified heads, Marilyn Monroe, Boris Pasternak, unidentified head, Stan Laurel, unidentified head, Oliver Hardy, Karl Marx. H. G. Welles, Paramahansa Yogananda, unidentified man, unidentified woman.

Top Row—Two unidentified men, Mae West, Lenny Bruce, unidentified man, W.C. Fields, unidentified man, Edgar Allen Poe, unidentified man, Fred Astaire, unidentified man, unidentified woman, two unidentified men, and  Bob Dylan.

So how did I do?  Clearly better than those long ago daze.  But still a lot of missing pieces.  So I checked a list on Wikipedia—not entirely easy to do, because their rows and mine do not exactly correspond.  I learned that I made some mistakes.  The two female figures in the second row left that I identified as a pin up and Lucile Ball both turned out to be illustrations “Petty Girls” by magazine artist George Petty.  In between the man in the Derby hat who I identified as American vaudevillian Eddie Foy was in fact British Music Hall star Max Miller.  On the other end of the row the partially obscured figure I thought to be a Turk was an American Legionnaire.

In the third row in the string of unidentified faces, I can’t believe I missed George Bernard Shaw directly above George Harrison’s hat.  In my defense I never saw a color picture of him and most of his long beard was obscured.

In the fourth row to the right of Marilyn, the man I thought was Russian Boris Pasternak was really the American junkie/poet/playwright William Burroughs.

Wikipedia also identifies the bust down in front only as “a statue brought over from John Lennon’s house.”  But I stand on my identification of it as Lawrence.  Compare with the photo in at the end of row three.

Can you do better?  

To check by Wikipedia’s list, click here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bloody Sunday, Forty Years Ago Today

17 Year old Jackie Duddy, the first fatality of the day, is carried as the Priest who was next to him waves a white handkerchief.

Note:  This is re-posted from one year ago.

There was a lot of hope on the drab and dangerous streets of Derry, Northern Ireland the morning of January 30, 1972.  The reason was the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA.)  Since 1968 this group which included both Catholics and Protestant liberals had been campaigning for basic Civil Rights for the Catholic minority in Ulster using the tools of protest and non-violence explicitly modeled on the Civil Rights movement in the American South.

This was a new tactic where change through the conventional avenues of democracy was thwarted by a gerrymandering of election districts which kept Protestant Unionist perpetually in power, even guaranteeing that they would represent many overwhelmingly Catholic neighborhoods and villages and where violent insurrection against the Crown was a treasured and storied tradition.

Youthful marchers had demanded an end to the gerrymandered election districts; a “one man, one vote” extension of local government franchise; the ending of housing discrimination which crowded the burgeoning Catholic population into well defined urban neighborhoods and rural villages; an end to job discrimination that kept Catholics from high paying crafts in the shipyards and other industries as well as in government; and the disbandment of the Ulster Special Constabulary (USB) or B-Specials, a reserve paramilitary unit used to enforce order on Catholics by means of police terror.

Just as NICRA leaders expected, having learned from the U.S. model, local Protestant authorities responded to their marches with swift and overwhelming repression.  Police attacks on marchers were common.  Leaders were arrested on any pretext.  Thing came to a head on October 5, 1968 when the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) attacked marchers in Catholic Derry injuring scores.  Film and photographs of the violence attracted attention in Britain, Europe, and the US.  As expected the attacks and the simple reasonable justice of the demands, elicited strong sympathy across the world.

Feeling the pressure, the Unionist Ulster Prime Minister appealed for calm and announced a program of limited reform on December 9.  Some local units of the NICRA declared a moratorium on marches until the following January to see if gains materialized.  Other chapters continued to march and students like Bernadette Devlin organized an even more militant organization, People’s Democracy.

Trouble erupted again in August, 1969.  However dedicated to non-violence NICRA leaders were, they could not contain the spontaneous angry response of the people in the neighborhoods.  The NICRA announced a march to protest the annual, proactive Apprentice Boys March by the ultra-Unionist Orange Order through Derry and other Catholic neighborhood.  March permits were denied while the Orange Order was given the go ahead for their triumphalist march commemorating the defeat of Catholic forces at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.  Youth attacked the Protestant marchers with rocks, the RUC responded with force, and three days of rioting broke out across Ulster.  Known as the Battle of the Bogside, the event is now looked upon as the beginning of The Troubles.

The Unionist government responded with a request for British troops to “restore order.”  The troops sent.  Many even welcomed them at first hoping that they would be more even-handed then the partisan RUC and USB.  But after British troops fired on and killed two demonstrators in July 1971.  The situation “changed over night” and British troops became widely regarded as the enemy.  The small, ultra-nationalist Provisional IRA, which had broken from the increasingly Marxist Official IRA quickly began to gather recruits  and announced a campaign against British Troops, as well as local forces. 

Just before the 1971 Apprentice Boy Marchers, but the British government announced a policy of detention without trial and began rounding up not only suspected IRA men, most of whom went into hiding, but Civil Rights and other community leaders.  Predictably protests to the new policy fueled new riots.  Over three days 21 civilians were killed across Northern Ireland and hundreds injured.  The first British trooper was shot by a Provo sniper.

Hundreds of men and women were now rounded up and placed in detention, fueling more protests.  By December clashes were routine and the IRA had killed six more troopers.

NICRA leaders hoped to restore calm by resuming non-violent marches.  When they scheduled a march in Derry on January 30, 1972 they first secured agreement from both the Provisional and Official branches of the IRA not to allow their men to bring fire arms to the event.  This was well known to British intelligence services.  As usual, however, the march was banned.  Still, the marchers set off that morning in the high hope of regaining the moral high ground.

Authorities decided to allow the march within Catholic Derry but to prevent it from entering Guildhall Square.  The First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (1 Para) was sent to the scene with specific orders to block the march at that point with force, if necessary.

Leaders decided not to challenge the troops, diverting the main march to Free Derry Corner, where they were assured they would be safe from attack.  A small number of local youth, however, broke from the main march and continued to Guildhall Square, pelting an Army Barracks with stones and taunting troops. Water cannon, tear gas, and rubber bullets were deployed, but two rioters were shot and wounded by live ammunition. 

 At 4 PM, responding to unfounded rumors of an IRA sniper, the Paras were ordered to enter the Bogside district where the peaceful marchers were still assembled. An order was given to fire live rounds.  17 year old Jackie Duddy was shot next to a Roman Catholic Priest as both fled from the troops.  Orders were given to continue to pursue demonstrators at the edge of Free Derry Square.  Troops opened up with indiscriminate fire and continued to shoot even after receiving direct order to stop.  Twelve more, all unarmed, were killed while fleeing or while attempting to aid those who had fallen.  At least one was shot and killed while waving a white handkerchief and going to the aid of a fallen boy.  Another was shot and injured then executed by a close range shot to the head as he pleaded that he had lost feeling in his legs.  14 others were shot, one of whom, shot at some distance from the main action and not even involved, died months later.  Two demonstrators were run over and seriously maimed by armored personnel carriers. No British soldier was wounded by gunfire or reported any injuries.

Bloody Sunday changed everything.  Any chance at peaceful change through non-violent protest was out the window.  Radicalized youth flocked to the militant Provos who stepped up their own military campaign against the Army.  They would ambush of patrol of the Para Regiment in a rural village and killing 18 in 1979 in an act of revenge.  Sectarian violence raged among IRA forces, Protestant Paramilitaries, and the British Army.   Thousands were killed and wounded.  Many Catholics were driven from their neighborhoods and villages.  Violence continued until the Good Friday Accords, finally arranged a power sharing agreement between unionists and Republicans and agreements for disarmament of forces on all sides—except the British Army—were made in 1998 after 26 years of fighting.  The accords held through tensions and the refusals of armed minorities in each camp to comply.

The blatant shooting of un-armed civilians in modern Europe shocked the world.  The Tory government of Prime Minister Edward Heath launched a hasty “investigation” led by Chief Justice Lord Widgery.  The report, rushed out in less than two months completely exonerated the Army despite and despite huge numbers of eye witnesses, film, and photograph, concluded that the Army had come under attack and that at least some of the dead had been carrying weapons.

Bernadette Devlin, by then an independent socialist Member of Parliament, was barred by the Speaker from giving her eyewitness account of the events, despite an explicit rule of the House of Commons permitting members to speak on events that they witnessed.  When Home Secretary Reginald Maudling rose to claim Army forces had fired in self defense, Devlin punched him in the mouth.  She was suspended from Parliament.  

As part of the 1998 peace process, a new inquiry was launched under Lord Seville.  The Seville commission included members from Canada and Australia to insure neutrality.  More than 500 individuals were interviewed through 2004.  Despite the refusal of the Army to provide their films and photographs, including footage shot from a helicopter overhead and claims—later proven untrue—that all of the weapons used by the troops that day had been lost or destroyed, the commission went forward.  

At a record shattering cost of £195 million a final report was finally issued on June 15, 2010.  The conclusion:  “The firing by soldiers of 1 PARA on Bloody Sunday caused the deaths of 13 people and injury to a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury” and that no stones, Molotov cocktails, or nail bombs were thrown at troops.  One member of the Official IRA may have fired his pistol only after the troops began shooting.

Surprise, surprise.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Archangels of the Holy of Holies—The First Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Imortal First Five.  Top:  Christie Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner,  Bottom: Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb.

On January 29, 1938 the first “class” was elected to the still un-built National Baseball Hall of Fame.  And quite a line-up it was—Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson.  With the standards for on field performance—not personal behavior—set so high, no subsequent class would be admitted without controversy and argument.  

The perennial mystification about why Ron Santo could never make it in until he was dead or whether Pete Rose deserves to be inducted and similar arguments are the meat and potatoes to baseball fans during the Hot Stove League winter months be.  

The actual museum was dedicated in Cooperstown, New York in 1939.  Located in the far-away-from-everything Upstate town because of a bogus claim the Abner Doubleday invented the game there a century earlier, the Hall none the less attracts about 350,000 visitors a year.  

Currently there are 295 individuals who have been inducted, including 234 players, 20 managers, 9 umpires, and 32 pioneers and executives. Santo will finally be installed in ceremonies this summer on July 22 along side Barry Larkin.

The Hall has reached out and included players from the Negro Leagues who were bared from playing in the Bigs and collectively honored the short lived All-American Girls League.  One woman, Effa L. Manley, the owner and executive of a Negro League team, has been elected on her own.

Every devoted baseball fan is expected to make the pilgrimage to the shrine at least once in his or her life time.  I haven’t met that holy obligation yet.  Contributions to the cause will be gratefully accepted. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Celebrating Colette

Note:  This entry was originally posted one year ago today and is offered again to satisfy my juvenile and puerile interests.

I admit it. The big reason I picked the birthday of French novelist, sexual adventuress, and outsized personality Colette to write about is so I could print the semi-salacious photo of her decked out as the Queen of the Nile. This blog is not too high minded to provide a little historical cheesecake. The French have an expression that may have become a cliché on the lips of Pepe Le Pew in this country, but is apt none the less—ooh-la-la!

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was born on January 28, 1873 in provincial Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, Yonne, in  Burgundy. Bright, buxom, and beautiful, she was married at twenty to an older man, the music and literary critic Henri Gauthier-Villars who wrote under the name Willy. Willy was a bi-sexual and famous libertine. He was also a literary charlatan. Recognizing his wife’s superior talent, he kept her as a virtual slave churning out material that he published under his own name. This, eventually included Colette’s first novels destined to become classics. The semi-autobiographical Claunine series scandalized French society when they were published but are now cherished as charming tales of a strong willed young girl blossoming into a sensual woman.

After fleeing the abusive marriage in her early 30’s Colette did not lose her taste for shocking the Bourgeoisie. By 1907 she was making her living dancing nearly naked on the French stage. That year she partnered with her lover, Mathilde de Morny, the Marquise de Belbeuf who performed as Missy. Their performance of a pantomime Rêve d'Égypte at the Moulin Rouge included an on-stage kiss which set off a near riot and police raid. Colette and Missy had to end their co-habitation but continued as lovers for five years and as friends for the rest of their lives.

Not that Colette could be confined by a monogamous relationship to a woman or a man. The first of several relationships with women may have been with the American expatriate and proprietress of one of the leading literary salons Natalie Barney who sheltered her when she first escaped her husband. Among her female lovers was said to the African-American  singer and dancer Josephine Baker.

Colette also continued to have relationships with men, both love affairs, as with the Italian writer Gabriele D'Annunzio and as a courtesan to wealthy men like Auguste Herriot, the heir to an automobile fortune.

In 1912 Colette married for a second time to Henri de Jouvenel, editor of the newspaper Le Matin. The couple had a daughter, Colette de Jouvenel in whom her mother had little or no interest. She was raised largely by an English nanny and waz seldom visited by her mother.

With the outset of World War I, Colette turned her husband’s rural estate at St. Malo into a hospital for the wounded. Her gracious care was long remembered and she was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1920 for her work. During the war she also found time to begin a long collaboration with composer Maurice Ravel which eventually led to the opera L'Enfant et les sortilèges which was finally produced in 1924.

By that time her marriage was over after a scandalous and well published affair with her 15 year old stepson, Bertrand de Jouvenel. Her literary fame was growing. Her 1920 novel Chéri chronicled a long affair between an aging courtesan and a young man. She traced her two characters through two more wildly successful novels.

In the mid-twenties Colette became part of the avant-garde set revolving around Jean Cacteau, who would be her neighbor and confidant for years. By late in the decade she was being acclaimed as the greatest French female writer. Her flaunted affairs were denounced in the conservative press and from the pulpit, even as her novels won rave reviews and huge readership.

In 1935 Colette married for the third and last time to Maurice Goudeket, a Dutch Jew from a wealthy family of diamond dealers. Goudeket, content not to attempt to constrain his still adventurous wife, proved to be her enduring partner. She even assumed his name and became, legally, Sidonie Goudeket, although she still published as Colette.

But war prevented much celebration. With the onset of World War II her international fame gave her some protection against the occupying Nazis, but Colette had to hide her Jewish husband in the attic of her home and assisted many other French Jews either hide or escape. After this became known after the war, she was once again hailed as a hero.

Despite the distraction of the war, Colette achieved the greatest success of her remarkable career which included nearly 50 novels with the publication of the novella Gigi in 1944. The charming story of a courtesan in training made the aging Colette world famous in the post-war years as she found herself one of the most admired literary figures in France. Her reputation grew as Gigi was published around the world, causing new interest in translations of her earlier work in the United States. She personally selected the young Dutch born ballerina Audrey Hepburn to play the title role in a 1951 Broadway play based on the novel. She did not live to see the even more successful musical film by Alan Jay Lerner and Fredrick Lowe starring Leslie Caron as Gigi which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

When Colette died in Paris on August 3, 1954 at the age of 81, the Catholic Church denied her last rites because of her scandalous liaisons and divorces. But she was given the first state funeral ever given by France for a woman. She is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where her grave is still a destination of pilgrimage.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Can They Do it Again?—Adbusters Issues Another Call

When my daughter Maureen was at Columbia College in Chicago finishing up her degree in magazine journalism her favorite publication, bar none, was the quirky, slick Canadian based magazine Adbusters.  She subscribed and would eagerly gobble up new issues and show me the great stuff that caught her attention.

The magazine is the public face of Adbusters Media Foundation, a Canadian organization founded in 1989 by Kalle Lasn and Bill Schmalz in Vancouver, British Columbia.  It is anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist, pro-environmental and globalist in outlook.  It is philosophically rooted in the broad anarchist tradition but seldom pushes that identity.  Instead it prefers to be non-doctrinaire, persistently subversive, creative, and savvy about modern culture and communications.  It has also been heavily committed to encouraging tactics of direct action and Gandhian non-violence.

Not only have its superbly executed graphics and advertising parodies and satires drawn attention and often gone viral on the web, but Adbusters has drawn a lot of attention to seeding unusual, headline grabbing protests including Buy Nothing Day and TV Turnoff Week.

Last summer they sent out an e-mail to their large list of subscribers and supporters with a simple suggestion—people should descend on Wall Street, the heart of capitalism and the banking and financial institutions responsible for a world-wide economic crisis.  They were inspired by the mass protests earlier that spring in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and by the one-the-scene consensus decision making employed by huge anti-austerity protests in Spain.  September 17 was the appointed target date.  Protestors were advised to “bring a tent.”  

They articulated on one demand, “a presidential commission to separate money from politics,” but made it clear that it was just the beginning of starting to “set the agenda for a New America.” That agenda would be worked out by consensus of the participants in the protest that they named Occupy Wall Street.

To publicize the call, Adbusters created a stunning poster—a ballerina dancing on the back of the iconic Wall Street statue of a charging bull.  

As the creators had hoped both the call and the graphic went viral.  In days they were all over Facebook, Twitter, and the blog-o-sphere.

Then the instigators did something unheard of.  They stepped back.  They demanded no leadership role, put forth no leader/spokesperson/hero to personify the movement in the media, and did not take any part in actually planning or organizing the event that they proposed.  When the appointed day came, no one at all from Adbusters was even on hand.  All of which was exactly what they had hoped for.

The call was taken up by several groups, including the shadowy inter-net presence Anonymous, and several existing organizations, but all supported the original vision of mass protest, non-violence and democratic, consensus based decision making with no anointed leaders.

Despite a huge buzz generated on social media the first day’s protest fell well short of the 50,000 that some had hoped for/predicted.  Attempts to actually march on Wall Street were stymied by police action.  The media took notice and declared the movement a failure.

But the small number of protestors made good their commitment to stay in the streets by occupying Zuccotti Park, a small, privately held open space reasonably near Wall Street.  They would not go away and mounted daily protests.  Slowly over the first week or so more joined them.  Many others could be turned out for specific demonstrations.  The movement really took off and grabbed the nation’s attention when a huge mass march across the Brooklyn Bridge on October 3 where over 700 were arrested and in the mass protests that drew tens of thousands to the streets of New York in the days that followed.

Video shot from cell phone and by Occupy documentarians showing police brutality went viral.

Within days the movement was spreading to other cities and towns who established their own camps and general assemblies.  Within weeks it had spread to hundreds places in the U.S. including medium size and small town which had seldom seen any protest.  Participants said they stood for the 99% against a powerful and greedy 1% oligarchy.  Suddenly the issues of Occupy Wall street were front and center of the American political discussion.

The rest, as they say is history.

Despite a tough winter when many Occupy groups found themselves evicted from the public spaces where they had established communities, the movement forged ahead in new and creative ways.  Protests continued, even intensified.  They also became more creative as in the protection of homes from foreclosure in some places.

Now Adbusters is back with a new call and a new poster:

Hey you redeemers, rebels and radicals out there,
Against the backdrop of a global uprising that is simmering in dozens of countries and thousands of cities and towns, the G8 and NATO will hold a rare simultaneous summit in Chicago this May. The world’s military and political elites, heads of state, 7,500 officials from 80 nations, and more than 2,500 journalists will be there.
And so will we.
On May 1, 50,000 people from all over the world will flock to Chicago, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and #OCCUPYCHICAGO for a month. With a bit of luck, we’ll pull off the biggest multinational occupation of a summit meeting the world has ever seen.
And this time around we’re not going to put up with the kind of police repression that happened during the Democratic National Convention protests in Chicago, 1968 … nor will we abide by any phony restrictions the City of Chicago may want to impose on our first amendment rights. We’ll go there with our heads held high and assemble for a month-long people’s summit … we’ll march and chant and sing and shout and exercise our right to tell our elected representatives what we want … the constitution will be our guide.
And when the G8 and NATO meet behind closed doors on May 19, we’ll be ready with our demands: a Robin Hood Tax … a ban on high frequency ‘flash’ trading … a binding climate change accord … a three strikes and you’re out law for corporate criminals … an all out initiative for a nuclear-free Middle East … whatever we decide in our general assemblies and in our global internet brainstorm – we the people will set the agenda for the next few years and demand our leaders carry it out.
And if they don’t listen … if they ignore us and put our demands on the back burner like they’ve done so many times before … then, with Gandhian ferocity, we’ll flashmob the streets, shut down stock exchanges, campuses, corporate headquarters and cities across the globe … we’ll make the price of doing business as usual too much to bear.
Jammers, pack your tents, muster up your courage and prepare for a big bang in Chicago this Spring. If we don’t stand up now and fight now for a different kind of future we may not have much of a future … so let’s live without dead time for a month in May and see what happens …
for the wild,
Culture Jammers HQ

Can they pull it off again?  Probably.  They now have a movement that is seasoned, experienced, and practiced at both organization and street tactics.

Of course everyone knew that there would be protests, and plenty of them, at this two-fer of international economic and western military power.  The economic summits, in particular, have drawn huge protests where ever they have been held over the last dozen years.  And since NATO, having lost its reason for existence after the collapse of the old Soviet Union, has re-invented itself as an interventionist force in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere massive anti-war protests against it were just as predictable.

All of the major organizations who have participated in earlier protests have already announced plans to be in Chicago.  Most of these organizations plan various types of peaceful demonstrations, some including civil disobedience.

The members of the on-going Occupy Chicago group have been planning for protests this spring as well.  The Occupy movement and representatives of other organizations have been in discussions with the city over permits, camping sites, and limitations on protest.

Mayor Rham Emmanual as Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff helped lure the meetings to Chicago to show off the city, repair the damaged international reputation caused by the humiliating loss of the 2016 Olympic Games to Rio de Janero, and put to rest the stigma of the 1968 Democratic Convention police riots.  In fact, his mantra has steadily been, “This is not 1968.”

The Mayor has made elaborate security plans for the meetings.  He crafted a raft of draconian new restriction on protests with huge boosts in fees for permits, fine, and jail sentences that would become permanently enshrined in Chicago law.  After massive public outcry, some of the worst provisions were stripped from the ordinances before an obedient City Council passed them overwhelmingly.  He still has plenty of legal excuse to clamp down on virtually any protest.

Although he pledges to work with groups to insure “a right to protest” and has even indicated that permits might be issued for rallies and marches near the meeting venues, he warns that the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security might over-ride these concessions by establishing wide security zones.

Protest leaders know what that means “They’re trying to set up a good cop-bad cop scenario and we’re not stupid enough to fall for that.”

The city is keeping its exact preparations closely under wraps, but the Chicago Police Department has been receiving new training and is being equipped with the latest riot gear, armor, surveillance equipment, and crowd control weapons.  Plans for detaining mass arrests are being made.  In addition to Chicago Police, other Illinois law enforcement agencies, and perhaps the National Guard word has gotten out that out-of-state police forces will be deputized.  The mayor will have a virtual army at his command.

The protests at international events have always been volatile because they are a target of relatively small groups of self-avowed anarchist street fighters.  The peaceful marches and actions of other protestors have often been disrupted by anarchists breaking away and going on sprees of breaking windows, setting fires, and fighting with police.  This has routinely caused an often violent crackdown on all demonstrators. 

Other demonstrators have had no influence over restraining the street fighters.  The Occupy Movement has generally been more successful at it.  But by now the street fighters are probably made up by at least 50% police spies, plants, and agent provocateurs.  Authorities need the pretext of violence to move against the larger groups.

The Adbusters poster for the May protests features a photo of the police attack at the Band Shell during the ’68 Convention Week protests—an open taunting of the Mayor’s attempt to “put that behind him.”  

I was there that afternoon and again that evening in front of the Conrad Hilton when, “The whole world was watching.”  There were probably only 3000 protestors in Chicago that Convention week.  We did not even catch the attention of the media until those two events on Wednesday finally occurred before network television cameras.  Prior to that police by sheer intimidation, including the routine beating of reports and the smashing of their  cameras, and the bulkiness of video and film cameras, kept most of the violence at Lincoln Park and other locations from the eyes of the public.  When the images of the beatings at the Hilton hit TV screens, the national conversation about the war got a huge boost.

Now modern electronics and video equipment make it impossible to keep those images a secret.  Even if rumors of the ability of authorities to “turn off” cell phone and Wi-Fi service in the protest zones is true, they can’t keep things from getting out one way or another.

Can the Adbuster folks really lure 50,000 in addition to the thousands being mobilized by other organization?  Can they keep up an announced presence for a full month? Can they contain the provocateurs?  How will they change the very nature of protest?  Only time will tell, but I wouldn’t bet against them.