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2/19/2007: Columbia Chronicle: Demonstrators playfully protest Chicago Auto Show
Bikers goof off at the Auto Show
By Alison Shipley, Staff Writer
Although the 100-year-old Chicago Auto Show has been generating excitement for many of its visitors, others aren’t sharing the same sentiments.
About 20 people participated in a protest they called Shutdown Festival at the Chicago Auto Show.
Dressed up as polar bears, Superman and Santa Claus, the group of bicyclists rode from Daley Plaza to McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, in protest of the auto and oil industries. The demonstrators hoped to raise awareness of the effects vehicle emissions have on global warming and the environment.
“We see the auto show as an over-the-top, big glorification of cars, when the last thing we need in Chicago is more cars,” said David Korn, activist and leader of the Shutdown Festival. “There’s an auto show on the streets of Chicago every day. You can’t even walk on the sidewalks or ride your bike without seeing, hearing or smelling them.”
Korn and other protesters at McCormick Place said bicycles are the vehicles of the future. The auto show protesters held signs that read “Don’t drive our polar bears into extinction.”
“We don’t need any more of our money shipped over seas for oil, or for automobile exhaust to be the leading cause of global warming,” Korn said. “We don’t need to have the second highest asthma death rate in the nation due primarily to automobile emissions.”
However, not all guests seemed to get the messages of the protest.
Rachel Urquhart, a senior education major at the University of Illinois at Chicago, attended the auto show and said activists should put a larger focus on fixing the problems with the CTA instead of focusing on how the auto show promotes auto dependency.
“I usually don’t go to the car show because I don’t see a point in looking at cars that I know I can’t afford. But I never thought about it increasing auto dependency,” Urquhart said. “Protesters should be fighting the battle of getting more bikes on the street instead of focusing [against the] car show. There are much better ways to promote biking.”
Urquhart said she uses her bicycle and the mass transit system to get to school, but she relies on her car for her daily life in the suburbs.
“I used to ride my bike all the time, until somebody stole it,” said Urquhart. “[Everybody] I know has had one bike stolen from them at one time or another. It’s so hard to bike downtown, I’m so afraid because of all the cars and all the people that don’t know how to drive. There are bike lanes, but it’s just too hectic for me to ride my bike in the loop.”
Kyle Collins, a 22-year-old college student at Harper College in Palatine, Ill., said he attends the auto show because he enjoys looking at the cars.
“The auto show doesn’t create auto dependency. I’ve never seen it that way,” Collins said. “People go because it gives them a chance to look at the new cars.”
Collins said he uses the mass transit system when he is in Chicago, but he depends on his car for use in the suburbs.
“If there was a mass transit system to get around in the suburbs, I would be using it,” Collins said. “It would be nice to not have to drive.”
However, although the protesters may have been seen, experts say they may not have been heard.
According Paul Brian, spokesman for the Chicago Auto Show, the protesters didn’t affect the auto show at all.
“To paraphrase a quote from George Bush [Sr.], when a horse flicks a fly off of his hind quarters, it’s a crisis for the fly, not for the horse. Basically, [the protesters] are there every year, so they’re there. But who cares?” Brian said.
According to Brian, activists were informed by police of a specified area where anyone can protest events held at McCormick Place.
“They hung around for a little bit, rode their little bikes around, and had fun,” Brian said. “They’re practicing their First Amendment rights, and they’re entitled to that.”
Still, the Chicago Auto Show sent a ‘cease and desist’ letter to the creators of Critical Mass’ website autoshowshutdown.org, claiming it had participated in trademark infringement by using the auto show’s trademarks on their site.
Autoshowshutdown.org informs the public of different events taking place to protest the Chicago Auto Show for the eighth annual shutdown festival.
“When we first got the letter from the auto show, we were worried. We knew we could hire a lawyer, but we knew the [Chicago Auto Show] could hire a ton of lawyers,” said Korn, one of the creators of the website.