Feb 01 2013

“This is How We Will Get Through This Time:” Youth Organizing in the Era of Austerity


Today, I got in my car and rushed to the Southside to participate in a protest/vigil that was organized in response to the actions of the University of Chicago police last Sunday. The protest/vigil was also intended to commemorate the lives of all of whose who have died in the past few months in this city.

Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (2/1/2013)

Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (2/1/2013)

It was cold as heck in Chicago today. I thought long and hard about exposing myself to the elements given the fact that I am just now fully recovered from a 6-week long bout of walking pneumonia. But I thought about the courage and tenaciousness of the young people of Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY) and decided to make the trek down South.

Let me tell you that I am glad I went. I feel so much more hopeful now than I did on Sunday night when I just felt angry & then despondent.

I saw several people at the protest who were friends and colleagues. It was wonderful to see friendly faces.

Jake Klippenstein, one of the 4 people arrested by UCPD on Sunday. Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (2013)

Jake Klippenstein, one of the 4 people arrested by UCPD on Sunday. Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (2013)

We were given flowers with the names of everyone who was killed in Chicago in 2012 attached to them.

Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (2/1/2013)

Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (2/1/2013)

We then marched three at a time, silently, with our arms linked over to the Administration building.

Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (2/1/2013)

Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (2/1/2013)

We were to walk up to the main office and drop off the flowers.

by Sarah Jane Rhee (2/1/13)

by Sarah Jane Rhee (2/1/13)

It was incredibly moving to be part of this procession, this silent march.

We then made our way to the Quad where several people led us in energetic chants:

HEALTHCARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT;
NOT JUST FOR THE RICH AND WHITE.

WHAT DO WE WANT? HEALTHCARE
WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW

WHAT DO WE WANT? A TRAUMA CENTER
WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW

If it was cold, I forgot about it for at least a few minutes. I yelled right along with everyone else out there.

Alex Goldenberg (who was arrested Sunday) & others chanting. Photo by Sarah J. Rhee (2013)

Alex Goldenberg (who was arrested Sunday) & others chanting. Photo by Sarah J. Rhee (2013)

It felt good to use my voice in this way. I used to participate in demonstrations and protests a lot more in the past. As I have gotten older, I have found other ways to be and stay involved in social justice. Today reminded me positively of the power of direct and collective action. But I have to admit that it is much more suited to the young and to the young at heart. Boy was it great to see all of the young people participating in this action.

Commenting on the following video of youth chanting after the action was over, my friend Amanda wrote:

“This is how we will get through this time. These young people will lead us. We will organize and we will win. I am so grateful to the people who teach and re-teach me to believe in this power and possibility, and who therefore make it possible for me to do what I do every day. These are them- fierce and FLY in below zero weather. How good it is to live among such brave and loving people. Thank you.”

I agree with Amanda. It is indeed good “to live among such brave and loving people.” My thanks too.

You can still support efforts to get the University of Chicago to drop the charges against three of the four people who were arrested last week by signing this petition.