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The Occupation Heard 'Round the Nation

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by Sydney Paul, AB 12

The United States has always been a nation of revolutionaries.  The desire for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a very active concept, which Americans practically take as an extension of themselves.  Every nationally historical event, from the Boston Tea Party to the recent Tea Party, can attest to this aspect of passionate solidarity and call for civic action, especially in times of despair.   The ordeal brought on by the United States' current economic downfall has been this generation's trumpet to arms. 

On September 17, 2011, a series of demonstrations began in New York City in protest of the social and economic disparities that plagued the nation, in addition to the condemnation of corporate greed.  New Yorkers of all ages, working and unemployed joined together in efforts to actively, and peacefully, make their voices heard to those they hold accountable.  Roughly a month later, the group, now known as Occupy Wall Street, has a large presence in Liberty Plaza Park which is getting stronger every day.

The New York movement has inspired many more cities across the country to rise to the occasion.  For the past 21 days, Chicagoans have been protesting in front of the Federal Reserve Building in the financial district of the Loop.  Thousands of demonstrators, who call themselves the "99%", have been marching and chanting every day so far, expressing their discontent and anger toward what they believe is unjust corporate control over the political system.  With more and more people joining in every day, the group has been remarkably gaining strength very quickly.

Many tactics of the demonstrations are based off the Arab Spring movement, like the 2011 Egypt protests for example.  So, Occupy Chicago is using a fairly new tactic of action--a lateral organization form, where everyone has an equal voice.  In this strategy, social networks play an integral part in sharing information and rallying the masses.  The presence of the younger generation in this strategy is very prominent and many students in other cities have jumped on the opportunity to participate.   Student activists at The University of Chicago have also taken notice and have begun to show their support.

Larissa Pittenger, a Uchicago student and activist, believes that this movement is bringing out the best in the people of Chicago.  "There's a lot of creativity and positivity that I think shows that this movement has a great potential for lasting change", said Larissa.  The 4th year in the college first entered the movement by marching with protesters downtown on day 5 of the Chicago occupation.  

Pittenger and other student activists have now organized an informational meeting for those who want to learn more about the movement.  The "Teach-In About the Global OccupyChicago Movement", will take place on Friday, October 14th, from 3pm to 4:30pm in Harper 130.  Students can expect to learn about the history of the greater Occupy movement, get an overview of what is Occupy Chicago, and discuss the academic aspect of the events with faculty members.  Notably, students will also gain some insight from representatives from Occupy Chicago, who will be attendance.

Over the past decade, our present generation of college students has proven to be a very civically motivated force.  In times of frustration and lost hope, they've educated themselves on current issues, but most importantly stepped up to the plate and have taken action.  Those who joined the Occupy movement are a great example of the enthusiasm that youth have for change and progress.  What an inspiring thought!

"I feel lucky to a part of [the] process" said Larissa.  "If it's something you care about, why not be involved?" 

Chicago Responds to the Disaster in Japan

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As we watch the images of devastation coming out of Japan, our hearts go out to all of those touched by last night's earthquake and tsunami there. Our thoughts are with the people of Japan and all those who have family, friends, or colleagues in Japan. For updates and information from the University, visit

In terms of local and national organizations, the WBEZ website is keeping a list.

Going Underground

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National Geographic and NPR have fascinating story on Paris catacombs:

Chicago's got it's own underground historyMorganRackLocos1.jpgOf course there's the CTA's subways, but there's a lot more going on underneath us. Some of us learned about the Chicago Tunnel Company's 60 mile underground freight network 40 feet below ground in the 1992 Chicago Flood. The photo above is from tunnels at the corner of Randolph and State Streets.

And then there's the ginormous Deep Tunnel project of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, one of the largest civil engineering projects ever.

Like the Paris catacombs, Chicago has a story to tell of what we do with our dead, which reveals much about the city's history, development, politics. There's the mass grave of Camp Douglas POWs from the Civil War, the Couch mausoleum still in Lincoln Park from when it was a main cemetery for the city, and the current controversy over the cemetery where a new O'Hare runway is planned...For more on Illinois graveyards, visit