Their mission is clear and those involved in the Occupy Chicago movement are relentless in their efforts to combat political abuses and corruption.
As stated by their website, occupychi.org, "Occupy Chicago is here to fight corporate abuse of American democracy in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world." Occupy Chicago is one of many metropolitan protests spawned by the Occupy Wall Street movement. The protesters are individuals unsponsored by any corporation.
The movement has spread to major cities across the United States, ranging from Orlando to Seattle. It has seen global activism as well, with protests in Tokyo, Sydney and other international cities. Illinois has three protest locations: Chicago, Springfield and the Urbana-Champaign area.
The collective protests, known as the Occupy movement, blame abuses of corporate democracy for the current state of economic disparity and civil imbalance. The masses of protesters around the world are self-identified as the 99 percent taking action against the greed and corruption of the one percent. Protester and retired union bricklayer, Ryan McSheffery, identifies as part of the 99 percent. He walks the street, sign in hand, in an effort to see that the government begins "putting social needs over corporate needs," he said.
The local movement is taking place in the center of Chicago's financial district at the Federal Reserve Bank, located at the intersection of Jackson and LaSalle. The protesters have been in front of the building 24 hours a day since September 24. The group has avoided conflict with the law, stating they have a working relationship with the Chicago Police Department. Officials warned protesters Tuesday that they must become mobile, meaning that no sleeping or sitting on the public streets will be permitted.
The protesters do not plan on leaving any time soon, protester Bryan Hazelwonder said. "If things like this continue, this is going to get bigger," Hazelwonder said. The 25-year-old left his Oregon home to hitchhike across the country to Occupy Wall Street. Two thousand miles into his trip, he stopped at Occupy Chicago to make his point to the officials, who he said are obligated to look out for the wellbeing of citizens. His anger and urgency are obvious.
"Our economy's falling, and if we don't do something about that now, hit the restart button, it's going to eat us alive," he said. As Hazelwonder spoke, he held a sign that read: "Lost my job, found a career." Hazelwonder's account is one of the many stories of loss and struggle represented at Occupy Chicago. The protesters together have made their stance on common ground.
McSheffery's sign speaks the protester's mission loud and clear. "This is our country. We will occupy it. These are our streets. We will occupy them. We are here. We are growing. We are the 99 percent."
Jennifer Starrs contributed reporting.