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News Tue Mar 01 2011
This article was submitted by Michael Volpe. For his piece on a deadly South Side blaze, see here.
When protests turned into riots in Greece in response to necessary austerity measures many commentators in the USA said chaos wouldn't happen here when our own budgets would inevitably cut. Yet, passions have been enflamed in all corners to prospective budget cuts. Friday, the scene was at the Daley Plaza as organizers lead by the anti eviction campaign protested proposed cuts by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Saturday, the scene moved to the John Thompson Center where Chicago played host to one of dozens of union lead protests all protesting the plan of newly elected Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker to cut most public employees benefits and limit their future collective bargaining rights. Despite constant snow and twenty degree weather, the crowd of nearly one thousand overflowed the square.
The signs were varied though singular in theme: solidarity, social justice, and anti Scott Walker and Republican party.
Some were clever,
Others weren't as clever,
Of the crowd, MC William McNarry said, "people that are active participants in social justice and social change." He continued, "you are all making America work for all of us."
Of Scott Walker, McNarry said, "if he was so concerned about budget deficit of $130 million, he shouldn't have given breaks of $117 million to corporations." Wisconsin had among the nation's highest tax rates and one of Walker's first acts as Governor was massive across the board tax cuts.
Dick Durbin also came to the podium. Of the fourteen Wisconsin State Senators hiding out somewhere in Illinois to avoid a quorum which would force a vote on this contentious issue, Durbin said, "those brave Wisconsin Senators, you are welcome here."
Durbin also made a comparison between all the domestic rallies against Walker and the rallies against despots currently ongoing in the Middle East, "all across the world people are gathering the way we are gathering. Come share those values with us."
He concluded, "Wisconsin is about the basic concept of liberty," continuing, "I'm proud to be with you today and I'm proud to stand in solidarity."
A teacher from Bolingbrook also addressed the crowd, "just because we are in Illinois doesn't mean we are safe." She explained that a bill similar to the one in Wisconsin also floated, though ultimately died, in the Illinois legislature. She concluded, "this is the middle class they're trying to destroy."
Roberta Lynch, a union activist said, "with absolutely no warning, no rationale, worker's rights are being stripped." she continued, "what we're witnessing is a raw power grab by those with too much power from those that have too little."
Meanwhile, a protesters marched around Thompson Center protesting for and against the planned cuts to federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
While local Tea Party groups had planned a counter protest, only John O'Hara, of the conservative leaning Illinois Policy Institute was visible. He confronted demonstrators with a make shift phone camera. Of one protestor, O'Hara asked, "what's your solution?" (to Wisconsin's budget crisis) the protestor responded, "bring all the parties to the table."