Election Day Proves Quiet on the Protest Front

8th Day Center for Justice members hold an anti-war peace vigil on Election Day in the financial district at Jackson and LaSalle.

Occupy Chicago protesters were uncharacteristically quiet on Election Day. Obama headquarters at Prudential Plaza on 130 East Randolph felt and looked like a typical workday. The popular Jackson and LaSalle intersection in the financial district was business as usual. Grant Park remained empty throughout the day and into the night.

The NATO summit held in May drew thousands of protesters to places like Grant Park and the financial district. Confrontations with Chicago police, some even violent, led to a significant number of arrests. In September flocks of Occupy members joined forces to rally and support the Chicago teachers’ strike. Both events caused traffic delays and overall unrest in downtown Chicago.

Twitter seemed to be the main platform Occupy Chicago used to voice any opinions about the Election. Some of their tweets during Election Day included: “Aint no party like a Wall St party cause no matter who wins they win” and “We keep hearing about Obama & Romney…when are they going to tell everyone Goldman Sachs is the next president.”

Shortly after Obama’s victory was announced they tweeted: “”I haven’t seen people this happy since they killed Bin Laden.”

At 7:16 p.m. CST on Tuesday, the Twitter Government and Politics team declared Election Day the most tweeted about event in US Political History, with over 20 million tweets. By the end of the night the total had risen to 31 million.

Some Occupy Chicago supporters made appearances at the polls. Occupy supporter David Orlikoff spent Election Day at a polling location in West Town informing voters about a ballot measure for an elected school board.

“Voting, and not voting, and everything in between are all direct action tactics,” said Orlikoff. “But what matters far more is what we do every other day and for the rest of the year.”

Tuesday morning two Occupy members raised a banner above the Kennedy expressway which read: “”No Matter Who Wins, The 99% Loses”. The Instagram photo made the rounds via Twitter.

Although Occupy protesters stayed away from Jackson and LaSalle on Election Day, members from the 8th Day Center for Justice held an anti-war peace vigil from 8:00-9:00 am, as they have every Tuesday since September 11, 2001. “I think we’ve missed maybe three or fourth Tuesdays because of weather but that’s it,” said staff member and Hyde Park resident Gwen Farry. “Some people come out from the suburbs.”

As the clock neared 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, 8th Day members greeted each other with warm embraces. Feelings of camaraderie and unity radiated from members’ associations with one another. Dressed for the cold in warm hats and coats, members each held homemade signs with messages such as “War is Preposterous” and “Find Peace in Your Heart.”

8th Day Center for Justice staff member Mary Kay Flanigan holds an anti-war sign.

Talk about the election was intermingled with updates on grandchildren and 8th Day business. Longtime 8th Day member Bob Bossie said while he’s sure both candidates are kind, caring individuals, “It’s not a question of personality. This is a question of policy.” He fondly recalled Obama’s November 2008 victory speech in Grant Park and the need for America to push forward.

The 8th Day Center for Justice is a coalition of Catholic congregations committed to promoting nonviolence, mutuality, and cooperation. Several of the members present on Tuesday have been very actively involved in working to close the School of the Americas (SOA). Several have even spent time in the SOA prison. The School of the Americas is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia.

“We know the prison is wrecking our economy, as is the cost of war,” said staff member Mary Kay Flanigan.

Here Flanigan talks about her work to close the School of the Americas and the time she spent in prison:

Staff member Kathleen Desautels arrived later than usual to the Tuesday peace vigil because of technological difficulties with the electronic voting equipment at her polling location in Humboldt Park. Desautels said she told an election judge that if Obama lost by one vote she would haunt her. When Desautels learned of Obama’s re-election, she said she was relieved but also very aware of the increased pressure put on the Obama administration and congress.

“It’s the ‘system’ that’s the problem,” said Desautels. “Obama will be able to do only what organized citizens demand of him.”

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