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May 21, 2012

Chicago Riot Cops Defending Art Institute from the People? Now, That’s Surreal.

Art Institute Chicago NATO demonstrations

Winston Churchill, in a time of war, saw that the arts were the voice of his people; the soul of his civilization, and the very expression of what is was to be a … citizen. If we as Americans are so willing to grossly over-fund our military and defund our arts, our deepest expression of ourselves both at home and abroad is simply an expression of war. Instead of cultivating unity and transcendence of boundaries throughout the world, we are propagating a world at war.

– from: Military Funding vs. Funding for the Arts: What Does the Difference Say About American Values? by Brendan McMahon (HuffPo)

Whether he’s the author of the quote or not, Churchill is famous for having rejected a WWII request to cut arts funding by his Finance Minister who was scraping every penny for the war effort, by asking: “Then what are we fighting for?”

I’m sure this photo of Chicago riot cops protecting the Art Institute of Chicago looks cool to some, but it couldn’t be more blasphemous. Just think about it. America, as a hyper-militarized state, having spent the last ten years engaged in a global war on terror, is hosting an international conference for NATO, the organization at the center point of that militarization. Further consider, one of the main attributes of that terror war has been the militarization of local police forces across the country. The agenda? Stifling public dissent in the face of the social need and humanitarian agenda sacrificed to the terror agenda. (Perhaps they were called in by Bank of America, the “global sponsor” hosting the blockbuster show?)

I think I need to go dust off my copy of Catch-22.

(photo: William DeShazer, Chicago Tribune caption: Chicago police line up outside the Art Institute as protesters draw near. May 20, 2012)

  • Steve Laudig

    Where was the US protection when the Iraqi National museum was threatened?

    • cf2k

      BINGO. I always avoid reading others’ comments before forming my own impression of this pictures posted here, and my first thought was exactly this question.  Here’s Rumsfeld’s money quote:

      “Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.” –Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on looting in Iraq after the U.S. invasion, adding “stuff happens,” April 11, 2003 

    • jonst

       Probably trying,  in the best, short sighted, way they knew how, to protect their exposed asses; while in a cluster F of a situation their stupid and callous ‘leaders’, and moron ‘people’ had put them in.  That is the, sad, and tragic, reality of combat in an urban zone.

  • Shirley

    As a native Chicagoan, this just makes me sad.

  • Sclewis111

    there was a dinner for the nato wives being held inside 

  • Thomas

    It doesn’t make any sense until you realize that museums are organs of cultural power. Anybody who has worked in an art museum will not be a bit surprised by this image: a major player like the Art Institute is part of the warp and weave of society’s institutional power structure (the incoming director of the Field Museum next door was recently a university president. These institutions all operate under the same executive consensus). Don’t be fooled by the glossy publications and breathless tributes to creativity. Art museums have always been profoundly conservative organizations and today they are completely corporate in their ideological culture. The director and the board know exactly where they stand.

  • Christine Lorenz

    They’re not “protecting” anything. They just needed a place to stand in formation, in full gear. Such a show of force could have been in front of any handsome building. It may be profitable to their strategy to look as if they’re protecting some kind of cultural treasure, but that’s not what this is about.

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