Occupy Chicago members gathered yesterday and some of them burned their voter registration cards in protest against this year's elections. They believe that there is no good candidate and are abstaining from voting. The protest took place in front of President Obama's campaign headquarters at 130 East Randolph as the Democratic National Convention entered it's last day. Here is the Occupy Chicago statement about the event,
"Every four years we are asked to step into the ballot box and select a fellow citizen to represent the United States of America at home and abroad. Again and again we are presented with two options whose solutions for the world fail to address even our most basic of needs. The situation is so dire that we are often told to select "the lesser of two evils" without even the slightest hint of humor, and this election cycle is no different. We have been presented with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, whose plans for the United States fail to address the gravity of the global failure of capitalism. In response, this year we must refuse to put our future in the hands of any evil, be it Democrat or Republican."
After the first wave of 5 or 6 burned their voter cards and spoke briefly about it, the floor was opened up to anyone that wished to speak. There has been great debate and conflict within the Occupy movement about the burning of cards and about members denouncing voting leading up to the event. There was a simultaneous protest against the event called "Hell no, we won't burn our voter cards." It's a credit to the movement that both the protest and the protest against the protest took place cooperatively.
The counter protest began with a man about 70 years old who gave a moving and passionate speech that told of "colored" voters being wiped from voting rolls in the 60's by the thousands in Southern states and the requirements/tests for re-enrollment were so impossibly stringent. Their rights to vote had been suppressed.
His speech was followed by one by Marissa Brown, a member of both Occupy the South Side and Occupy Chicago. She spoke to the assembly and had harsh words for the group. She opposes the burning of anything in front of Obama HQ. She said,
"We now find ourselves forced to protest fellow Occupiers. We must send a clear message that Occupy as a whole is not supportive of voter suppression tactics nor the racially offensive image of this particular act of protest."
Ironically, and as a part of the counter protest, there were volunteer voter registrars in attendance at the edge of the crowd encouraging people to fill out registration forms for voting. They did sign up some passers by and even a few Occupiers.