CHICAGO (CBS) — Thousands of protesters flooded downtown Chicago at five different locations Monday to participate in simultaneous marches to “Take Back Chicago.”
At least one arrest was reported and several participants were ticketed, police said, but overall the demonstrations were orderly.
As CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports, the Take Back Chicago protest was organized by the Chicago Teachers Union, labor groups and other organizations.
They marched with demonstrators involved with the Occupy Chicago movement, which has been camped out in the financial district along LaSalle Street for more than two weeks to protest what they call corporate greed.
Take Back Chicago Protest
Monday’s protest culminated in a mass rally outside the Art Institute of Chicago, as thousands of activists flooded Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street outside the museum, where mortgage bankers in town for a convention were holding a reception.
The march targeted two banking conferences that are now in town – the Mortgage Bankers Association Convention and Expo and the Futures and Options Expo. The groups converged at the hotels where conventioneers are staying and other strategic locations.
Demonstrators began gathering at five different locations downtown and staged simultaneous marches, culminating in a demonstration on Michigan Avenue outside the Art Institute of Chicago, where members of the futures industry were arriving for an event.
Russell Stern, CEO of Solarflare Communications, disagreed with protestors’ anti-business message.
“These corporations are what employ people,” he told CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov. “Growing the business is a priority. And you can’t really grow the business without adding people.”
A lot of these people were looking for solutions to unemployment and the housing crisis, as well as looking for better education for our kids.
As CBS 2′s Vince Gerasole reports, for nearly three weeks, the calls of “Occupy Chicago” protesters have voiced their outrage over bank bailouts and so-called corporate greed – a message that resonated with Chicago-Kent law student Dan Massoglia, who is looking at an uncertain financial future.
“Did I ever see myself being here? It’s like, no – you didn’t see the civil rights movements coming for the most part … but now we have another civil rights movement, an economic civil rights movement,” he said.
In a West Side warehouse, where protestors were preparing Monday afternoon to speak out against a widening class gap, you could unexpected activists.
North Sid resident Amrita Dayal said, “Oh, I never imagined that I’m going to be marching today in a protest.”
Dayal is a 60-something mother who has seen her educated children lose their home to foreclosure.
“I could think it would happen in India or third world countries, but it would happen in America? In my lifetime, I would have never imagined,” Dayal said.
West Rogers Park resident Beth Lanford said, “This is so radical, to go out and be protesting.”
Lanford has a job as a project manager, but the hardships her friends and family have been living through have her marching as well.
“I was brought up that each generation would do better and better and the middle class – if you worked, you went to school, you got an education – things would just be good. But it’s not happening in that way,” Lanford said.
Building on the momentum of the “Occupy Wall Street” protest in New York City, activists at National Poeple’s Action reported more interest in their cause. Their more than 5,100 likes on Facebook have increased by 1,000 over the past three weeks.
“Now we see, you know, even more people coming out of the woodwork, because we have hit a crisis point,” National People’s Action spokesman Jordan Estevao said.
South Side resident and union member Lenda Mason said, “I know what it’s like to think you’re not going to have a job and you have to pay mortgage.”
Mason, a health care worker, is among those taking to the street, finding this new movement is reinvigorating their rank and file.
“It’s the job of government to help us out. They helped the big banks out, why can’t they help us little people out?” Mason asked.
The groups that organized Monday’s protests believe jobs, homes and schools have been taken by big banks and corporations that have wrecked the economy.
They are demanding that Congress raise revenue from Wall Street and those who run it.
The “Occupy Chicago” protesters were one of the first protest groups inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters to come up with a list of formal goals. According to the group’s website, their list includes:
1. PASS HR 1489 REINSTATING GLASS-STEAGALL. – A depression era safeguard that separated the commercial lending and investment banking portions of banks. Its repeal in 1999 is considered the major cause of the global financial meltdown of 2008-2009.
2. REPEAL BUSH TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY
3. FULLY INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE THE WALL STREET CRIMINALS who clearly broke the law and helped cause the 2008 financial crisis.
4. OVERTURN CITIZENS UNITED v. US. – A 2010 Supreme Court Decision which ruled that money is speech. Corporations, as legal persons, are now allowed to contribute unlimited amounts of money to campaigns in the exercise of free “speech.”
5. PASS THE BUFFET RULE ON FAIR TAXATION, CLOSE CORPORATE TAX LOOPHOLES, PROHIBIT HIDING FUNDS OFFSHORE.
6. GIVE THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION STRICTER REGULATORY POWER, STRENGTHEN THE CONSUMER PROTECTION BUREAU, AND PROVIDE ASSISTANCE FOR OWNERS OF FORECLOSED MORTGAGES WHO WERE VICTIMS OF PREDATORY LENDING.
7. TAKE STEPS TO LIMIT THE INFLUENCE OF LOBBYISTS AND ELIMINATE THE PRACTICE OF LOBBYISTS WRITING LEGISLATION.
8. ELIMINATE RIGHT OF FORMER GOVERNMENT REGULATORS TO WORK FOR CORPORATIONS OR INDUSTRIES THEY ONCE REGULATED.
9. ELIMINATE CORPORATE PERSONHOOD.
10. INSIST THE FEC STAND UP FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST IN REGULATING PRIVATE USE OF PUBLIC AIRWAVES to help ensure that political candidates ARE GIVEN EQUAL TIME for free at reasonable intervals during campaign season.
11. REFORM CAMPAIGN FINANCE WITH THE PASSAGE OF THE FAIR ELECTIONS NOW ACT (S.750, H.R. 1404).
12. FORGIVE STUDENT DEBT – The same institutions that gave almost $2T in bailouts and then extended $16T of loans at little to no interest for banks can surely afford to forgive the $946B of student debt currently held. Not only does this favor the 99% over the 1%, it has the practical effect of more citizens spending money on actual goods, not paying down interest.
The Teachers Union will lead the march from the Board of Trade, accompanied by a marching band. They are protesting, as stated in a news release, “politically connected developers, pseudo school reformers and people who want to destroy public education in Chicago.”
The protest beginning at the Hilton will be led by college students and activists from the group MoveOn. A marching band and puppets will accompany the protest.
The groups began marching to the Art Institute of Chicago, at Adams Street at Michigan Avenue, at about 4:45 p.m. to converge for a single mass rally. Take Back Chicago expects 7,500 people to attend the marches.
About 20 members of a group called National People’s Action came out for the protest on kayaks and dressed like Robin Hood. They kayaked down the Chicago River before unfurling a banner on the Michigan Avenue bridge that read “Wall Street Takes From The 99%, Gives To The Rich. Take It Back!”
“We are the 99 percent” has been a frequent chant of the “Occupy Chicago” and “Occupy Wall Street” protesters – a reference to middle-class and low-income Americans.
“The majority of people who have paid for the banks – for the downfall of this economy – are the taxpayers. The middle-class, the low-income – we are the 99 percent,” said Jessica Vasquez, a member of National People’s Action. “The one percent of mortgage bankers who are reaping all the money from faulty mortgages, horrible robo-deals – we are the ones who are paying for all their corruption.”
Mortgage banker Jack Thompson said, “I understand their frustration. It’s tough on a lot of families. Unfortunately, it’s a process that we have to go through to clean it up and the process is being drug out.”
Thompson was in town for the Mortgage Bankers Association annual convention at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, where one of five groups of protesters gathered Monday afternoon. Thompson and several other bankers listened in on what protestors had to say.
An older teacher in the group said he’s excited to see people – especially young people – getting involved and speaking out.