By JACK NICAS
CHICAGO—A long-planned protest against the financial community was augmented Monday evening by the local offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
A long-planned protest against the financial community was augmented Monday evening by the local offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Jack Nicas has details on The News Hub with Kelly Evans and Bob O’Brien.
Protesters representing more than 30 local labor unions, community organizations and activist groups including Occupy Chicago, marched downtown against “the big banks responsible for the recession,” a joint statement said. Chicago police estimated 3,000 people took part in the march.
Last week in Manhattan, labor unions joined with Occupy Wall Street for the protest’s largest turnout yet. Unions also have taken part in Occupy protests in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Boston, according to news reports. The alliance between the two factions suggests the Occupy movement could become a more mainstream bloc, or that labor unions, whose protests sometimes don’t get wide media coverage, are capitalizing on the group’s sudden allure.
Earlier this month, labor leaders and community organizers here reached out to Occupy Chicago to seek support for their long-planned Columbus Day rally. Two nights last week, they sent pizza to the Occupy protesters, who have stood outside this city’s Federal Reserve Bank for 18 days.
“All our coalition partners have been talking about” the Occupy protests, said Catherine Murrell, spokeswoman for Stand Up! Chicago, a coalition of dozens of labor and community groups that helped organize Monday’s protest. “We’re thrilled to have them.”
Micah Philbrook, a 33-year-old actor and Occupy Chicago spokesman, said his group weighed joining the labor march at an open meeting Saturday, and some voiced concern.
“There’s always concern about joining forces with anyone,” he said. Some protested that “we’re being co-opted, [that] they’re backed by the Democratic Party.” But then the group voted, and more than nine-tenths favored joining the protest. “I think it’s great we can lend our media presence to them,” Mr. Philbrook said.
Occupy members made up nearly 300 of the estimated 3,000 that protested, and non-Occupy organizers made it clear they were the force behind the rally. “We were doing this long before Occupy Wall Street,” said Stephanie Gadlin, spokeswoman for the Chicago teachers’ union.
The unions and community groups also come armed with more specific demands, such as infrastructure investment and more money for schools. Stand Up! Chicago pushes a 25-cent tax on the buyer and seller in every contract for “the riskiest types of transactions” at exchange markets here, Ms. Murrell said. The group says the plan would raise $1.4 billion annually.
The “Take Back Chicago!” protest began with five separate marches—two outside expos for the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Futures Industry Association—that fed into a rush-hour rally that blocked off a major downtown street.
The Futures Industry Association declined to comment. The Mortgage Bankers Association said in a statement: “We worry…that the focus of the protesters is about what isn’t working in this country, while inside this conference we are working on building a safe and sound system to support the dream of homeownership.”
Organizers said they didn’t have a permit for the protest, but police blocked off several blocks of Michigan Avenue as thousands of protesters streamed in. At the Monroe Street intersection, dozens of protesters in reflector vests formed a human wall to symbolically block the police. Behind them, 15 police on horseback lined up.
Protesters shouted slogans that have been common in the Occupy protests, including, “The banks got bailed out. We got sold out.” In a building overlooking the protest, a banner unfurled that said, “Topple the pyramid.”
There was one arrest, police said, for battery to a police officer.
Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa, the State Patrol arrested 32 members of Occupy Iowa when they refused to leave the grounds of the State Capitol after its 11 p.m. closing. “We warned them three different times they needed to leave,” Sgt. Scott Bright said. “We were courteous.”
Back in Chicago, a security guard turned away protesters from a pedestrian bridge to the Art Institute of Chicago that overlooked the protest. The bridge was being used as an entrance to the kickoff event for the Futures Industry Association expo, and men and women in suits watched the protests below, some waving, many taking cellphone photos.
Jay Brown, an independent trader from Chicago attending the expo, said, “They’re protesting for the things that got us into this mess in the first place. They want free handouts, unions.”
Moments before, a dozen protesters dressed as Robin Hood attempted to get onto the bridge, pushing past the lone security guard. Eight policemen arrived quickly and restrained the protesters, pushing them back. For the next several minutes, the protesters chanted the Occupy protests’ motto—”We are the 99%.”
Then, just before they left, one Robin Hood approached a policeman, shook his hand and said, “Sorry if I stepped on your toe.”