Reflections on My Time in Chicago
May 29, 2012
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National Nurses United Rally
Just returning home from an impressive array of activities in response to the NATO Summit. The Coalition for a NATO-Free Future organized a counter-summit with some amazing speakers and workshops. The Iraq Veterans Against the War moved us all with their personal testimonies and their heroism – ending the weekend’s activities by leading a march that culminated with several veterans tossing their war medals back to the generals meeting at the NATO Summit.
Important mobilizations took place throughout the city on a daily basis. National Nurses United (NNU) organized a spirited rally – taking up the international call to tax Wall Street transactions – a demand that could mean a huge transfer of wealth from the 1% to meet social and environmental needs throughout the world. POWER Executive Director Alicia Garza represented GGJ at NNU’s planning meeting on the campaign. STOP took over the neighborhood of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel for seven hours – calling him out on shutting down mental health clinics throughout the city. Emmanuel spent $55 million to host NATO – no doubt most of that going to an outrageously excessive show of force. Police in riot gear locked down the city and were not interested in showing restraint with non-violent protestors. The $55 million for Emmanuel’s state of siege could have supported all of the city’s mental health clinics beyond the next 20 years.
We had a great delegation of grassroots leaders in Chicago – with member organizations Afro-Eco, CAAAV, Chinese Progressive Association San Francisco, Community Voices Heard, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Labor/Community Strategy Center and POWER represented. Staff members Cindy Wiesner and Ife Kilimanjaro met with local Chicago organizations months ago to build relationships and talk about the summit. They also partnered with the War Resisters League to conduct a training about NATO to Chicago Occupy. We were guided by the dynamic young leaders of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization on a tour of their community – besieged by polluting facilities but victors of a recent fight to shut down a coal-powered power plant. We also had a great Organizer Exchange between Grassroots Collaborative organizers and the GGJ Coordinating Committee. GGJ’s delegation also attended the founding assembly of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles.
We organized a well-attended workshop on on our framing of No War, No Warming, Build an Economy for People and the Planet and GGJ Program Coordinator Cindy Wiesner facilitated a plenary that included Afghans for Peace, John Nichols, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Tom Hayden.
For me this experience brought home the importance of GGJ as a movement building vehicle. The alliance serves as a nexus between different sectors of organizing. On the one hand we played a role in helping grassroots organizations make the connections between their local work and global institutions like NATO and G-8. On the other hand we help national peace and justice networks understand and connect with grassroots organizing in communities of color. GGJ does this by creating spaces for convergence like the US Social Forum, conducting political education programs for our members and allies, or by organizing delegations to take part in important national and international convenings like the NATO summit, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro next month or the World Social Forum in Tunisia in the spring of 2013. Weaving together our understanding of issues, people and communities will allow us to deepen and broaden the knowledge of grassroots leadership, strengthen international solidarity and build the broader agendas that will make us a bigger movement than the sum of our parts. Big thanks to all of our new friends allies that we met in Chicago!
By Michael Leon Guerrero