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Occupy leaders: No plan to return to Grant Park

Mark Banks Occupy Chicago (foreground) was arrested last October during group's attempts camp Grant Park. He talked about charges being

Mark Banks of Occupy Chicago (foreground) was arrested last October during the group's attempts to camp in Grant Park. He talked about charges being dropped by a Cook County judge Thursday. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Now that a judge has ruled they can, will they?

Occupy Chicago leaders say they don’t immediately plan to establish an encampment in Grant Park now that a judge says it’s within the law.

Leaders do, however, expect to increase their activism in the wake of the ruling, said organizers at a news conference at their lawyers’ offices in the 1100 block of North Milwaukee.

“We don’t want to spend too much time feeling celebratory,” said Mark Banks, 31, one of those arrested. “All this time we’ve spent dealing with legal issues has distracted from the momentum of the wave of social activity that was going on. It’s time to redirect the focus to the sorts of things we were trying to talk about before we got dragged into court. It’s time to bring those discussions back to life.”

While last fall’s tidal wave of activism seems now but a trickle, they now hold regular protests over high minority incarceration rates, police brutality, high student debt and joblessness, organizers said.

“These wins have an effect,” said Andy Manos, 33, one of the arrested.

“It lets people know that when you stand up and fight back, when you let your voice be heard, you can win. It will certainly impact efforts on the ongoing issues a lot of the occupiers have gotten involved in.”

But they were unsure whether the ruling will reignite a mass movement.

“The city never cared about the outcome of this,” Banks said.

“What was important was killing the momentum of the political movement itself. But now that [the city] has said, ‘What we did was unconstitutional.’ I think you may see an upsurge in people’s willingness to think along dissenting lines . . . But it’s too early to tell.”

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