May Day didn’t come in with a bang but with a drizzle. No fireworks at midnight, no rally calls in the streets. It was like any other Chicago spring day: gray, potholed, and downtrodden.
11:45 a.m., Paulina Ave.
Walking north to Union Park from the Illinois Medical Center blue line, I saw an unhappy woman fooling with the laminated nametag around her neck and a dusty old man sloughing along the sidewalk. A busted red and black umbrella by a fence. Last year’s leaves dead near the curb.
I expect a spectacle. For the whole city to be lit up and on the verge of erupting. Camaraderie raging. But like you I rarely get what I want. Not to mention that anytime I participate in an anniversary of a historic event or visit a monument, I don’t feel anything. I’m a ghost passing through, thin and veiled.
It’s been a difficult spring. Folks have been hard to organize. Everyone has been so insular in their chosen struggles, their individual battles bleeding them dry.
Union Park: Red & Black Brigade Rally
A small group of cold comrades stomp and clap in a circle, singing a chant with POWER as the refrain. Men with black bandanas covering their faces carry red and black flags. Food Not Bombs Pilsen serves banana bread made from dumpster finds on a card table. The social media guru of IWW shouts updates through a bullhorn. CACHE smokes and chats with our Michigan Student Union allies.
“Anytime you’re ready, go up and speak,” she told told me.
I’ve been thinking about what to say. I knew I had promised to speak. And for the last few months, I’ve been working with the idea that we’ve already won. It’s powerful.
You should try it.
Pretend that we just have to go through the motions for it to become complete.
Believe that everything you read is published in order to convince you otherwise: the higher courts refusing to hear the NDAA case, Monsanto creating a GMO marijuana plant, the death of net neutrality. Know that #badmin and oligarchs are pulling so much from under our feet that they can’t possibly continue without severe and relentless backlash. Didn’t they know that? What made them think they could get away with cruelty and austerity forever? Such fools these bourgeois be.
I take the microphone because clumsy me can’t figure out how to use my new bullhorn without setting off the siren. The thrill of the moment and the brain stagger: “I’ve resurrected and co-opted Rik Mayall’s People’s Poet, for all y’all who know The Young Ones. So you have to scream PIG! at the end of every line. Ready? All right: Taking even more from your public’s hands, are you?”
“You still forget the rifle’s kickback?”
“You know Liberté weighs in our favor?”
“Don’t you know that we’ve already won?”
“Guess who taught us that?”
“You can’t kill revolt.”
“It’s alive and well.”
1:30 p.m., Red & Black Brigade Feeder March
A bit of a scuffle taking the streets off Union Park.
Cop brigade was slow to organize.
And then once ready we were off like a cannon in slow motion. An engine building steam and momentum. Bucket drums out of sync with the chants, always. Why folks say But it’s anarchy as an excuse for not catching the beat I’ll never know.