CHICAGO — The early morning arrests of 175 members of a group demonstrating against corporate greed signified a new phase of civil disobedience for Chicago's wing of the movement, organizers said Sunday.
The arrests came after hundreds of members of Occupy Chicago refused to take down tents and leave Grant Park near the city's lakefront when it closed at 11 p.m. Saturday. Organizers did not seek a permit to be in the park after hours, saying they stayed because they need a home base for the growing movement.
"It was very much a choice and calculated," said Randy Powell, a 27-year-old student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago who was arrested. "I feel like I had to."
Those arrested were cited with violating municipal code — being in the park after hours — and will have future court dates, police said. Several released from jail rested at a downtown church Sunday morning, taking a few moments to sleep or drink hot tea before heading back to a protest in the city's financial district.
Similar groups nationwide have set up bases in city parks with officials often working to accommodate them.
Occupy Iowa members reached a deal with Des Moines' mayor Friday to move from the state Capitol to a city park, avoiding arrests. Plans to temporarily evict New York protesters from a park so the grounds could be power-washed were postponed at the request of political leaders.
But Chicago protesters said they've had no such luck with Chicago officials. Some organizers said they haven't had encouraging conversations with city officials, but they haven't applied for permits either.
"We believe we have the right as an international movement to secure a space where we can interact with the public and grow our occupation," organizer Rachael Perrotta said Sunday.
A message left for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office wasn't immediately returned
Occupy Chicago began its protest more than 20 days ago as a spinoff of the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City. The group started small, with about 20 to 25 people a day holding homemade signs outside the U.S. Federal Bank building.
The group has since grown steadily, with about 100 to 150 people attending the group's daily general assembly meetings, and protesters say thousands attended some of the larger rallies. A website informs members about upcoming meetings, marches and other events. It has a Facebook page with more than 23,000 likes, and a Twitter handle with more than 14,000 followers.
The group's sudden growth has made volunteers revamp their organization in recent days. They have committees that handle issues ranging from dwindling supplies to housing concerns.
"If we're going to continue this we need to stake out a home base," said protester Karen Looney, 26.
The movement has spread to other parts of Illinois. Demonstrations were held Saturday in Peoria and Springfield, where hundreds chanted and marched through downtown streets. The mostly liberal Peoria group included some supporters of Texas Republican and presidential candidate Ron Paul, a favorite of libertarians.
The scene at the Chicago protest late Saturday night was described as energetic. Protesters linked arms to form a human chain and yelled "The whole world is watching!" as the event was streamed online and tweeted.
Chicago police spokeswoman Laura Kubiak said there were no reports of violence.
Police offered individual protesters the choice of leaving or being arrested. The arrests started shortly before 2 a.m., and without enough police cars and wagons, officers put protesters on Chicago Transit Authority buses to take them to jail. Most were released by Sunday morning.
David Orlikoff, 22, of Chicago, was among those arrested. The Columbia College student said the group doesn't intend to provoke a confrontation but will use civil disobedience "when we feel it's appropriate."3 comments on this story
He said he's disappointed Emanuel didn't intervene to allow the protest to continue. When police reached him, Orlikoff said he had to make a decision.
"I thought that I believed in it and I was the one who was there doing it and who else was going to get arrested but me?" he said.
Associated Press writer Carla K. Johnson contributed to this report.
Sophia Tareen can be reached at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen