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Marchers, police and Zionists collide at SlutWalk
by Liz Baudler
2017-08-12

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An already tense atmosphere at SlutWalk Chicago exploded when, near the march's conclusion Aug. 12, five marchers were detained and held in a police wagon. At least three of the five detained were trans individuals, and organizers planned to head to 18th and State after the march's conclusion for jail support.

Founded in 2011, SlutWalk, an annual event in multiple cities around the world, protests rape culture and raises awareness of sexual violence. The first rally was in Toronto, after a police officer suggested "women should avoid dressing like sluts" as a precaution against sexual assault.

SlutWalk's Facebook event page says, "we demand an end to sexual violence and to the social codes of shame, silence, and blame surrounding it. The idea that that acts of violence can be excused due to a person's dress, state of intoxication, location, and sexual history is ludicrous and feeds into the violent cultural view: that sexual assault is not a real crime. We actively fight against victim-blaming, ableism, body-shaming, slut-shaming, whorephobia, queerphobia, transphobia, racism, classism, misogyny, fascism, and the racist policing/judicial/prison system."

Prior to the march, activists assembled in the park at 808 N. Michigan for a brief rally with speakers. A SlutWalk organizer began by telling the crowd to ask consent before taking pictures and that if they experienced antagonism from anyone, to let an organizer know.

Early reports of a new Zionist movement, formed in the wake of the Dyke March controversy, planning to attend SlutWalk were realized. In a July 16 statement, SlutWalk had originally stood in solidarity with Dyke March Chicago in saying they "wouldn't allow Zionist displays" at their event. But in a recent Times of Israel article, a SlutWalk organizer was quoted as saying, "We are not banning any symbols or any kind of ethnic or heritage flags."

About 15 individuals with "Zioness" signs ( an artist's rendering of a woman wearing a Star of David ), many also wearing t-shirts with rainbow Star of Davids, stood in the crowd around the speakers.

Periodically during the speeches, these individuals would raise their signs in the air, only to be blocked by people holding other signs or a red umbrella, an international symbol of sex workers' rights, in front of them. Undeterred, the "Zioness" contingent would circle the crowd, looking for a place to hoist their signs, and occasionally yelling disagreement when speakers directly addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Saying his group had wanted to partner with SlutWalk because they "were not a single-issue movement," Andy Thayer of Gay Liberation Network compared attempts to turn America into a Christian nation with Israeli policy against Palestinians. "Democracy cannot be limited to one race, one religion. It's an oxymoron," Thayer said.

Toward the end of the speeches, which concluded with a Palestinian activist telling the crowd "you cannot be a Zionist and feminist," the crowd broke into a spontaneous chant of "Free Palestine."

Other speakers focused on issues such as supporting sex workers and Black women in their daily lives and as part of movements. Referencing the weekend's far-right marches in Charlotteville, Virginia, a SlutWalk organizer drew parallels between fascism and rape culture. "Fascism is rape culture in a social, political and economic costume," they said.

At its height, SlutWalk appeared to contain about 150 people. The crowd notably thinned once the march passed Water Tower Place, with many of those carrying "Zioness" signs drifting away. SlutWalk continued down the Magnificent Mile with chants of "make rapists afraid again" and "the dress is not a yes" filling the air, often to the consternation of passersby.

The group headed over the Michigan Avenue Bridge and past Trump Tower, where organizers briefly paused to destroy a head of Donald Trump. By the time of the scuffle with police, the march had dwindled to around 60 people.

Tensions with the police had been evident earlier in the route. At the intersection of Michigan and Erie, organizers had wanted to cross the street with the traffic light, but the police had denied them, saying it was because of Northwestern Hospital. They instead offered to let the march cross at the next intersection. After a brief standstill, the march continued and later crossed without incident. The police seemed similarly concerned about SlutWalk blocking the flow of traffic on the Michigan Avenue bridge sidewalk.

At Washington and State, organizers attempted to lead the march into the street. The police blocked their path and about two minutes later, could be seen dragging off individual marchers and brandishing bikes against the rest of the crowd, who began yelling "let her go" about one of those detained.

Another detainee was held down on the sidewalk by the police before being taken to a waiting truck.

It is unclear whether these were arrests or not: when asked for more information, CPD "had no notification" of arrests.

Shaken, the march continued, organizers urging them to stick together. Kelly, an activist from Brazil who had spoken at the rally, said she had not expected the police conflict to be so violent. "That's something we're used to seeing in Brazil," she said.

SlutWalk organizer HoneyB confirmed the five arrests. Three of the five have been released with tickets; two trans individuals were still in custody at presstime.

"The arrests were very brutal and violent, and completely unnecessary," she said. "SlutWalk Chicago was just being people: the police were the ones who brought the brutality and brought the violence. Aside from the arrests, I think the event was a success. We talked about all the different intersectionalities of how rape culture affects different identities and different areas from the world, and how we'd all like to come together and fight rape culture and fight whorephobia. We had a really good turnout."

Later coverage at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Final-arrested-SlutWalk-protester-released-on-bail/60074.html .


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