Demanding Justice from the Rahm Racket (Field Note)

Jeremy Cohan

December 12, 2015

Notes from the recent past, as Chicago continues to demand justice from Rahm Emanuel and the Democratic Racket.

On Thursday, September 17, Phillip H. and I went to a protest against the privatization of the remaining six public mental health clinics in Chicago, by the Mental Health Movement. This is all in anticipation of the budget Emanuel will release in mid-October that just about no one is looking forward to.

We arrived at City Hall, 2nd floor lobby, just after the gathering and photo op was finishing. From what I could tell it was organized by STOP (Southside Together Organizing for Power—an Alinskyan community organizing group, that began with anti-gentrification organizing and has branched out; they were leaders in the recent South Side trauma center campaign); also, several protestors wore Illinois Single Payer Coalition shirts. About 30 people, decent press. Some of us then went to the fifth floor to deliver N’Dana Carter’s letter to the mayor. A young gentleman stepped out from the mayor’s office and listened, doing his best to look attentive, though the establishment-smell clung to him like moss. Carter was doing much of the leading and emphasized to us that we were there to be heard, not arrested.

We then walked over to the office of the Health and Disability Advocates (Motto: “A Social Innovator for Healthcare, Economic Security, and Personal Dignity”): From what I can tell a neoliberal policy wonk group. We gathered by their offices. Their recent report suggesting the city outsource their remaining six clinics was decried. The bureaucrat-lady, author of the report, justified her position with reference to the data. “I looked at the data.” “The data speaks for itself.” “We ARE the data,” said a protestor. She insisted that Chicago shouldn’t be in the business of mental health delivery, that its public health mission should be one of prevention and monitoring and contracting with agencies who can do an efficient job. Mental health budgets are thin everywhere. “Why not ask for more money?” said a protestor. One protestor had a hard time keeping track with things and started shouting out the bureaucrat—Carter ably quieted him, telling the crowd we needed to let the bureaucrat “tell her story.” She later remarked to said bureaucrat, “You should laugh, because evil does.” Carter was in general an impressive leader.

Security was called, an officious looking bureaucrat in a long pink frock tried to silence the press, and I suggested that the group should be given a specific date and time to meet with her, not a general promise for a follow-up email. She assented to this and a rendezvous was made up for Sept 23rd, 10am, with 5 participants.
The whole thing reminded me of a chat I had had the day before with my decidedly not left-wing uncle who was worried about potential privatizations in my grandmother’s assisted living facility in the ‘burbs—privatization means worse service, he said. This is something that is known, but the numbers for the protest were few, in part because it’s a service that only the down and out make use of. Divide et impera.

— From the Desk of the Unconscious

Communism madness New Social Forms politics