Today was "Not My President's Day" in Chicago and throughout the country. While I share the sentiment, in Chicago, it was a rather lackluster event. Wabash and Wacker has become the regular meeting ground--directly across the river from the Trump Tower--and once again today, it was the point of assembly.
At about 10AM, I was headed home from an early morning meeting when I ran into a young couple who were headed to the noon rally. After they told me that 4,000 people had said they were attending on Facebook and that 20,000 were expected, I took the 146 bus home, grabbed a couple of cameras, and headed back downtown. When arrived at the noon rally, there were no more than 1,000 people milling about. There was a speaker's corner, with a live mike, but the speeches were pretty lackluster. Standard fare, by speakers who were just not that inspirational. I was very unimpressed by the twenty-something woman who sang a song from Sesame Street.
I don't have the answer and I am certainly not an organizer, but if this movement is to succeed, it needs to turn the rallies and demonstrations into theatre. The rallies also need some celebrities and experienced speakers.
The organizers may want to visit the exhibit currently running at the Art Institute of Chicago (through April 30, 2017) entitled Provoke: Photography in Japan Between Protest and Performance, 1961-1975. Interestingly, I saw a similar exhibit in Paris last December called Uprisings, which also focused on visual art and protest. Something in the Air. I am not suggesting violence by any means, but there is a need for street theatre. A Butoh dance may be exactly what the doctor ordered. Both the Provoke and Uprising exhibitions make clear that the visual and performance arts were key catalysts in the movements that dominated the Sixties protests around the world.
Yesterday's demonstration offers a perfect example of how important the visuals are to driving the message home. I was mesmerized by the Muslim men and women who went to Federal Plaza, assembled into a formation, and then prayed as a group. Certainly the highlight of yesterday, which drove home an important point about freedom of religion and peacefulness of the Muslim community.
As for the Wacker-Wabash location, it is terrible. Yes, it is symbolic given the proximity to Trump Tower, but the crowd is penned into a small area. Most people can't see the speakers. It certainly doesn't photograph well in terms of a dramatic crowd image.
Today, probably the most memorable moment came when the crowd sang the Beatles' Come Together in perfect and pleasing harmony. John Lennon would have been glad all over.
I headed back home at 2.00PM. I wasn't the only one who drifted off. When I left, the Chicago Police boat patrolling in from of Trump Tower was headed back to the station house on Lake Michigan. The helicopter was gone, and the media looked pretty bored. In fact, the Chicago Tribune only included four photographs in its online slideshow. No offense to the photographer, but those photographs were pretty lackluster, but I attribute that to the quality of the event.
For the police, these demonstrations have become non-events. Drinking a Starbucks Venti while manning the barricades is hardly a tough gig. Like the demonstrators, they mill about, talking sports and other mundane topics of the day.
Several of these photographs were made with a Voigtlander Heliar ultra wide-angle 12mm lens. Let me tell you, that is a risky thing to do when people are involved given lens distortion that goes with this extremely cheap wide angle lens. I, however, finally figured out how to properly use the wide angle correction tool in Photoshop. It does a pretty nice job.