Saturday, April 22, 2017

Chicago Turns Out for Science and Earth Day

Greg Bartik, Chicago

It is inspiring to see hundreds of thousands of people out for the science marches on Earth Day and it was a beautiful morning and great weather on Michigan Avenue here in Chicago. The video above gives a good idea of the size of the march.

When I arrived, there were already swarms of people disembarking from extra EL cars and emerging in to the sunshine and the rally.  It was well organized with volunteers at every corner keeping people safe and directed.  The crowd was well over estimates of 10K from Facebook and 40k indicating they were “interested”.  People were interested enough to turn out.

It got a bit congested as people walked along slowly, tens of thousands of them to hear the speakers on Columbus passing by left wing activists tables, bullhorned speakers, hand bill/paper distributors and all sorts of people and groups sharing their views.

By 10 am the area was swamped, not the type of swamp Trump would have an easy time draining that’s for sure. The mass of people was too wide for the streets to contain them and they began to spill east on to Columbus by Buckingham Fountain backwards from the speakers. A Bell helicopter was filming, I wasn’t sure if it was the cops or the news media but after I saw some of the live feeds on social media I figured they probably came from that helicopter. I was a bit annoyed by the helicopter as it was low enough to drown out what a lot of the people were saying and so low I wondered what might happen if it malfunctioned and crashed. Would it kill hundreds with a fireball?  At least it provided good video for a wider audience. 

I couldn't find my friend in the same vicinity because the crowd was so huge; and couldn't hear because of distance and the chopper, so I withdrew to the Gage Tavern to eat and communicate with others on social media. Many friends were posting and asking questions and discussing the coverage. Social media has a lot of garbage on it but it is undoubtedly a useful organizing tool.

The huge crowd was very diverse, fresh new faces I think, and didn't stop even after the march was well along. It reminded me of the airport protests after the Muslim ban that seemed to spring up out nowhere when Trump signed his executive order banning Muslims for many countries from entering the US. Train after train kept unloading relentlessly for hours. 

It seemed to me that there were a lot of white collar workers and professionals there who appeared new to protests; folks with white coats and a whole range of adults and their children, of all ages. There were doctors, academics, hippies, kids, lefties all with the emphasis on science. The mood was very positive and cooperative. Street actors, artists, and bands intertwined.  The city used manned snowplows to block bridges and the police stayed in background largely passive. 

Watching the overview video it looked like a mile of people a whole wide street across slowly shuffling. No fights, no friction, no pushing. It was upbeat like the Women's March. I think once ordinary working class people come out, whether professionals, tradespeople, white or blue collar and they bring their families, the atmosphere is very different.

Think this was nationwide including DC and all major cities, maybe global. 

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