Interview of Martese Chism by Mike Malloy 2011-10-24

From The Mike Malloy Show, Monday, October 24th, 2011

Martese Chism Interview


Mike Malloy: As you know by now, on Saturday over a hundred people were arrested in Chicago – the Occupy Chicago event that occurred in Grant Park over the weekend. Among those arrested were a couple of nurses with the National Nurses United union, who were there to assist in case anybody – cops, occupiers, anybody – needed medical assistance. These nurses were arrested. As a result of that more than 200 nurses in red shirts affiliated with NNU went to Chicago’s new mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office at city hall this morning, chanting “Arrest the one percent.” Now, one of the people arrested is a woman named Martese Chism. She said she and her colleagues were at Grant Park to offer medical assistance and moral support. Nurse Chism said, “We believe they have the right to assemble, regarding the occupiers, and the right to the freedom of speech under the Constitution. We see our patients suffer from the economic crisis and we believe the only way to heal America is to address Wall Street. Joining us now from Chicago is Martese Chism, a registered nurse who was arrested Saturday night. Hi Martese, how are you today – or this evening.

Marese Chism: OK, I’m hanging in there.

MM: How long were you in jail?

MC: We were in jail for 23 hours.

MM: Twenty-three hours. Have they told you, well I’m sure they have told you what you are charged with?

MC: I can’t remember what the charge is, but it was a protest charge.

MM: Like criminal trespass, something like that …

MC: Right, something like that – I can’t remember.

MM: That’s usually what they get you with when you’re using the Constitution, when you’re practicing your First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble. Were you and the other nurse ordered to leave, Jan Rodolpho, were you ordered to get out of the way before the police arrested you?

MC: Yes, at 11 o’clock white shirt Chicago police officers came up and told us that there’s an ordinance that says you have to leave the park at 11 p.m., and if you do not leave or move your tent, you will be arrested. And then they were like “Are you sure you don’t want to move your tent, or do you want us to move your tent?” And we told the officers we believe that Chicago occupiers have a right to protest, a right to assemble and freedom of speech, and we believe that this ordinance is violating that right. And as long as the protesters are here, we will be here. So the Occupy Chicago protesters, they did not want to be moved, so we said we would not be moved — we would stand by the Chicago occupiers.

MM: And at that point did they … I would assume that you had some sort of medical equipment set up?

MC: Right, we had a medical station, a tent set up with a first aid box set up to provide medical attention. So at 11 o’clock they told us that you have to leave the park because of an ordinance, and then at 12 midnight they came and said that you have to leave, and then finally at 1 o’clock they put this big light, like a ball park light, and put it on the tent. And then they moved in on us. And so all the protesters surrounded the tent to prevent them from taking the tent down, and to prevent them from arresting us. So they surrounded the protesters and us, and then maybe like an hour later they moved in. They arrested the back people first and then they went to the right side, the front. And then once they arrested everybody, they took the tent down – we were standing inside the tent, me and Jan. And then they took the tent down and we were just standing there, and there was people watching us get arrested. We were the last two to get arrested.

MM: It’s my understanding Martese that human rights, civil rights is nothing new in your family. There’s a story about your grandmother, I believe.

MC: Correct. My grandmother, her name was Birdia Keglar. And in the 1960’s, cause I’m from Memphis Tennessee, and in the 1960’s she marched with Dr. King, and made the effort trying to get the black people in Mississippi to register to vote. So in January 1966, when I was five years old, she went to Jackson, Mississippi, to give testimony there – with a group, this was like three cars. She went to Jackson, Mississippi, to Senator Robert Kennedy’s hearing to give a testimony on them being denied their right to vote. And on her way back, she was pulled over and it was maybe six people, but her and another woman, they were murdered – on their way back, after giving that testimony to Senator Robert Kennedy. And at the time … I mean cause they let us know that you could die, but to keep the dream alive and keep moving forward. And so at six years old, that’s when I made up my mind that when everybody else was crying at the funeral, as a child I didn’t cry. I said, “I will continue your dream, continue your fight.” And so I went on to college, and did everything. And until now, it looks like the things that the civil rights people fought for, that the American dream is in trouble. And I feel that it’s my time, the nurses’ time to fight to save this dream, to keep this dream from turning into the American nightmare. And on her way back in that car, you know when they tell the story … My grandmother dealt with a lot of college kids, white college kids, coming down there to help them. She would hide them in her home, and I was too young to remember. So when I see these kids, it brings back memory when she was doing it, when she did it. And that’s why I’m like, they’re standing up for their rights, this is not the first time young kids have stood up for other people’s rights. They’re standing up for their rights, it’s the right thing to do, and our nurses union, we believe that’s the right thing to do so we’re standing with them.

MM: Is your plan, Martese, and possibly Jan, I know you can only speak for yourself, but is your plan to go back to Grant Park?

MC: Well, I’m a registered nurse, and we get every other weekend off. So this weekend is my weekend to work, I work p.m. shift three to eleven. So I won’t be able to go this weekend, but every weekend I’m off my plan is to go back, until we beat Wall Street and victory’s won. I’m going to continue. As long as they’re out there, we’re going to be out there with them. And we’re expecting it to be a long fight, just like with the [bus boycott]. It’s going to be a long fight, and we’re planning on going the duration.

MM: Well, Martese, I respect you deeply for what you’re doing. Is there anything you need listeners of this program to do — just support the movement I guess.

MC: Right. They need to call their legislature. Because, what our union is trying to do, is to get Congress to tax Wall Street. Because we believe that this economic crisis, it was caused by Wall Street. And so we’re trying to get Congress to pass a financial transaction tax. And that’s what we’re pushing. So once they, if Congress passes this financial transaction tax, then we can put money back into Main Street. And like I said earlier, the only way we can heal Main Street, we have to deal with Wall Street. And I know it’s not going to be an easy fight, because I can see what the president is going through now. But if people put the pressure, like they did with the civil rights movement. And even with freeing the slaves, it’s the people. So the people need to start moving. Join the nurses, doing the Occupy Wall Street. And we have a movement to move Washington into the people’s direction.

MM: I hear you. Martese, thank you so much for joining us. I have the deepest respect for you, and I hope we talk again. Take care, take care. Martese Chism, registered nurse.


(Transcribed by Quinn Hungeski)

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