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Sore Winners



    If Chicago’s Left were less consumed with the need to protest, they would have held a press conference declaring victory over Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the ordinance regulating protests at the G-8 and NATO summits.

    Thanks in part to pressure from activists, Emanuel was forced to back down on his plan to raise fines for unruly demonstrators to $2,000. Aldermen also forced the administration to change language that would have required protesters seeking permits to file descriptions of their signs.

    Instead of celebrating that retreat, demonstrators held a press conference outside the City Council chambers Wednesday morning, where Emanuel was, implicitly or explicity, compared to King George III, John D. Rockefeller and George Wallace.

    Protestors held signs reading R.I.P. BILL OF RIGHTS, 1789-2010; THIS SIGN WILL BE ILLEGAL; and WELCOME TO CHICAGO, YOU’RE UNDER ARREST. A woman wearing a papier-mache Rahm Emanuel head hoisted a “SHUT UP” placard while a man dressed as a cop taped over the mouths of “arrestees” sitting Indian style on the floor.

    “It seems today our mayor is taking other approaches to opening hoses and siccing dogs,” said Charles Jenkins, a veteran of 1960s civil rights protests who was representing the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Jenkins pretended to take a call on his cell phone. “Mayor Emanuel, it’s Governor Wallace. He has a message for you, and that message is ‘Be careful what you ask for.’”

    Ruth Long, of the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, went halfway to conceding that the mayor had met her group halfway.

    “Mr. Mayor, I’m thankful for the positive changes you agreed to make,” said Long, who cited the importance of protest in the Boston Tea Party, the women’s suffrage movement, the abolition of slavery and the union movement. “This proposal as it was suppressed our 1st Amendment rights. I am greatly concerned that the remaining proposal will regress us to a pre-Civil Rights era.”

    But there is no point of compromise between Emanuel and the Occupy movement; the mayor embodies one of the group’s cardinal complaints, the excessive influence of money in politics. The fact that he raised $11 million to win the mayor’s office, much of it raised from Wall Street, makes his every action suspect.

    Beyond that, compromise, while an essential political virtue, is not part of Occupy’s playbook. They have positioned themselves as a permanent opposition, for whom protest is a means, not an end. They don’t know how to react when they win, because as members of the 99%, they don‘t consider themselves winners.

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