Chicago Mercantile Exchange protects identity of "WE ARE THE 1%" sign maker

Windows of the Chicago Board of Trade Building on the morning of Wednesday, October 5.

Windows of the Chicago Board of Trade Building on the morning of Wednesday, October 5. Photograph: @USAanon/"T"

The sign made only a brief appearance this morning on windows of the Chicago Board of Trade Building, but the message lingers.

Four pieces of white paper, pasted on as many windows of the historic 141 West Jackson Boulevard building, declared in dark marker, WE ARE THE 1%. The taunt, it seems, was directed at Occupy Chicago protesters who’ve been demonstrating under the banner of "We are the 99 percent," in solidarity with New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement. Fluctuating numbers of protesters have been sitting in for nearly two weeks in front of the Federal Reserve Bank at 231 South LaSalle Street, in the shadow of the CBOT.

"This is a full-on endorsement—an exact copy, in fact—of Occupy Wall Street’s assertion that current society consists of a greedy and callous 1% that wields a staggering amount of influence, counter to the interests of the 99%," an Occupy Chicago press release sent this afternoon read. "Likewise, its placement is an act of shocking arrogance showing the world that the highest class is listening to the voice of the people and mocking it wholesale."

The release continued, “'There couldn’t be a better advertisement for our movement,' said Daniel Massoglia, an occupier and first year law student. 'Our country is being held hostage, our democracy has been taken from us, and the whole nation is now treated to cake at the hands of Marie Antionette 2.0.' ”

So, who’s to blame for the sign and its brazen message of preeminence? Thus far, exactly zero percent of the self-proclaimed one percent has been ballsy enough to fess up. And CME Group Inc., the parent company of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade, is protecting the party responsible by keeping mum. When I called CME Group to inquire, spokesperson Laurie Bischel was obviously expecting questions on the subject.

“Let me pull out my notes,” she said. “What I can tell you is that signage was placed on the building by a tenant of 141 West Jackson, not by CME Group, and the signage has been removed.” Bischel would not name the tenant or identify the building floor. Previous reports have claimed the sign was hung on windows of the building’s 8th floor. However, a previously published newsletter by CBOT restoration contractor Design Installation Systems says the building’s clock base is on the 10th floor, suggesting the windows that displayed the sheets of paper are perhaps a couple floors above ten.

I also asked Bischel if CME Group would like to take the opportunity to denounce the WE ARE THE 1% statement. “You know what?” she responded. “I don't have any information for you besides what I just gave you.”

Down on the sidewalk at the corner of Jackson and LaSalle, many of the Occupy Chicago protesters were taking the sign's message as a big middle finger—but not neccesarily a surprise.

“I’ve already had a bunch of these trader guys walk by and defend their greed from the top down,” said protester Dan Holland, 35, of Naperville, who works in a retail warehouse. “Good for them that they got all that money. They just keep stealing from us.”  

“I thought [the signs were] extremely disrespectful,” said Corey, 35, a Chicago Public Schools special education teacher. “Also, it’s just a load of political rhetoric.”

“Those people wish they were the one percent!” said Mike Polski, 53, a sign maker from Joliet. “The one percent are billionaires.”

Seeing the Occupy Chicago protest every day for nearly two weeks, traders on break from working in the pit have had some time to reflect on the demonstrations. “It’s a free country, and everyone has a right to an opinion,” said George Garza, a courier for RJ O’Brien at the CBOT, donning a kelly green trading jacket. “I don’t think the economy is as simple as 99 percent to one percent, though.”

When I informed Paul Richardson, who spent his morning in the pit for Vision Financial, about the WE ARE THE 1% signage, he chuckled. “It’s just trying to get the protesters stirred up," he said. "They’re getting a little annoying, you know what I mean? Blocking streets, sidewalks. I know they’re just trying to be heard, but I think they’re uninformed. They’re inexperienced on being educated on the economy, so they don’t have a leg to stand on in terms of their platform.”  

Protester Polski held forth on the fate of the entire Occupy movement: “Be it in France via the guillotine, or be it in Vietnam the way they threw out the imperialists—in the end, the 99 percent are going to overcome just as they have in every culture.”