Red bandanas, sun burnt skin and eager activists crowded the basement of Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, turning used cardboard boxes into picket signs.
The church, located at 615 W. Wellington Avenue, in the Lakeview East neighborhood allowed the group to use the space as a convergence area, providing a refuge from the heat during the weekend long demonstrations that have brought thousands from across the country to Chicago in protest of the NATO summit.
Alexandra Evans, 19, came from Charlotte, N.C. With red cheeks and a beaming smile she talked excitedly about being in Chicago, and the peaceful, non-violent nature of the protests.
“In every occupation there are problems that arise,” Evans said, “but everything has been peaceful.” Evans described the scene as a giant think tank, with people all over the country discussing ideas.
On the unseasonably hot day, some were seated outside the church, holding up signs and talking to passersby. On the way into the church, others sat taking a break from the sunny corners of the city. Down the stairs, into the basement of the church protesters scattered across the floor, made signs and snacked on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Sean Maupin, 25, came from Lawrence, Kansas, to participate in the protests. “We are educating ourselves,” Maupin said. He talked about coordinating solutions and ideas through peaceful discussion.
Evans and Maupin echoed an important sentiment that has been a thread through the many protests the NATO summit has prompted. They said the United States spends too much on defense abroad, even while at home people are denied vital health services, teachers are laid off and students are going broke paying for their education.
Zvi Maz, 38, drove in from Bloomington, Indiana. Maz said there were seven people in his car, but he was expecting 20-25 more people from Bloomington to arrive. “That’s how we all heard about it and came here,” Maz said, referring to the Occupy movement.
Members of Occupy Chicago were present, and while not all protesters aligned themselves specifically with Occupy, the essence of their message is the same. They believe that funds should be reallocated from defense and to health care, education and local communities.