Place of Protest: Chicago's Legacy of Dissent, Declaration, and Disruption

Daley Plaza, 2003

Disrupting the Peace

Anti-war protesters use cyberspace and civic space to mobilize dissent.

AS NEWS SPREAD OF THE UNITED STATES-LED INVASION OF IRAQ IN MARCH 2003, thousands of Chicagoans took to the streets in protest. On the first day of the conflict, students staged walkouts and crowds gathered in public spaces like Federal Plaza and Daley Plaza to exercise their first amendment rights. The growing crowd then spontaneously marched toward Lake Shore Drive, where they shut down traffic. Police made hundreds of arrests that night. The protests continued the following day, although with fewer people and a city-sanctioned walking route confined to the Loop.

CHICAGOANS PROTESTING THE IRAQ WAR CARRIED SIGNS condemning United States imperialism, criticizing President George W. Bush, and promoting peace. The visual culture and energy of the demonstrations had observers drawing parallels to 1960s anti-war protests. Unlike the 1960s, however, anti-war protestors utilized emerging technologies like the internet to communicate and mobilize. Meanwhile, counter-protesters attended the rallies as well, occupying the spatial fringes of protest areas along with police in riot gear.
THE DEMONSTRATIONS IN CHICAGO AND ACROSS THE WORLD succeeded in signaling dissent to leaders of the invasion. The war became increasingly unpopular as it lasted the better part of a decade. Meanwhile, a new era of immediate mass communication via the internet intensified the interconnectedness of protests across the world. Although labor and civil rights demonstrations in Chicago historically connected to national and international struggles, the globalization of the twenty-first century introduces new opportunities to consider the role of place in protest.

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