Members of UChicago #CareNotCops (CNC) joined students and activists in Millennium Park Thursday, April 21 to protest aerospace manufacturer Boeing Company and its relationship with the city of Chicago, claiming that Boeing is taking advantage of the war and enables oppression on a global scale.
About 25 people participated in the #BootBoeing rally, including activists from the environmental group Rising Tide and the Kashmiri solidarity group Stand With Kashmir. Students from UChicago and other Chicago-area universities, including Loyola University Chicago and Northwestern University, were represented among the activists. Protesters gathered in Wrigley Square then marched to the Boeing Gallery North, less than 500ft from the Cloud Gate sculpture.
Activists carried large banners, one saying “Boeing Kills With Chicago Bill$ / End The Contract” and another calling the Boeing Galleries the “Boeing Arms Genocide Galleries”. A series of posters described Boeing’s alleged involvement in war and oppression in areas of the world such as Palestine, Kashmir, Yemen, the US-Mexico border, West Papua and the Philippines.
At the Boeing Gallery North, activists spoke about Boeing’s ties to the city of Chicago. They then handed out chalk to write anti-Boeing messages on the sidewalk as security guards and Chicago Police Department officers watched from a distance. The speeches were interspersed with chants such as “From Palestine to the Philippines, stop the Boeing war machine”.
CNC and UChicago third-year organizer Warren Wagner spoke at the protest on behalf of the CNC. Wagner’s calls for the abolition of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) were met with cheers from the crowd, and they later spoke in favor of the movement to “start Boeing from the Earth and send the ‘UCPD with them’.
Wagner criticized the University’s financial investments, which, as Brown revealed in 2020, have links to arms makers like Boeing, deforestation and fossil fuels. They also highlighted the importance of linking CNC goals to movements like #BootBoeing. “We see how the same tactics are used in the occupation and policing of neighborhoods surrounding the University’s parallel war overseas,” they said. Brown.
One of the organizers of the #BootBoeing campaign was Josue, 23, who declined to give his surname due to privacy concerns. He studied at UChicago before dropping out this fall at the start of his third year.
Josue celebrated the City of Chicago’s choice not to renew a recently expired 20-year contract Contract which offered Boeing tax credits in exchange for moving its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago in 2001. Ending this contract had been the initial goal of the anti-Boeing campaign.
The City’s choice not to renew the contract was not, as Josue noted, directly attributable to the #BootBoeing movement. Changing business priorities and the COVID-19 pandemic are said to have left Boeing’s waterfront tower more and more empty.
Protesters insisted that the expiry of the contract was not enough. They shared demands for Boeing to end its arms manufacturing as well as for the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois to cut ties with the company altogether. Pamphlets distributed at the rally challenged the construction from a Boeing drone manufacturing facility at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, more than 250 miles south of Chicago. Defense and space contracts, mostly with government agencies, accounted for more than 42% of Boeing’s revenue in 2021, according to business deposits.
In the minds of some protesters, there is no room for compromise with a company they see as evil. “Even if they set up a giant manufacturing plant in the center of Millennium Park and it [provided] thousands of jobs for working class blacks and browns, at the end of the day they are still making weapons that are being used to sow evil, violence and death in every corner of the planet,” said Josue . Brown. “No number of jobs are worth that.”