Chicago protests target financial industry
Chicago, October 11, 2011
Thousands of protesters, including teachers and religious leaders, converged on downtown Chicago on Monday to rally against economic inequality, with two financial industry events in their crosshairs.
Some demonstrators gathered outside a meeting of the Mortgage Bankers Association, while others came together near a luxury hotel where a US futures exchange trade association was holding a conference.
The protests were inspired by, but not formally affiliated with, the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York last month.
Police estimated 3,000 protesters at the events organised by the "Stand Up Chicago" coalition, which includes teachers, trade union officials and religious leaders. The group said on its website that its goal was to reclaim "our jobs, our homes and our schools."
Chanting "we are the 99 percent," hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank.
They carried signs demanding "Liquidate the Fed" and "Repeal Bush tax cuts." Another read: "I smell a general strike."
"We really want to highlight the role the financial industry has played," said Adam Kader of "Arise Chicago," an interfaith workers' rights group that is part of the coalition.
"They're here in our backyard, so this is the time to send a message about how we're really hurting."
He said the demonstration would focus on foreclosures, unemployment and lack of municipal funding for key services.
Police arrested 27 demonstrators, many wearing Chicago Teachers Union T-shirts, who linked arms and sat down in the middle of the street as they chanted "Save our schools, save our homes!"
One demonstrator faces a charge of battery on a police officer.
Nearby, a crowd chanted "Shame on you!" to members of the Futures Industry Association who peered out from a balcony of the Chicago Art Institute, where they attended a party.
Several protesters each paid $2,245 to gain admission to the Mortgage Bankers Association event, organisers said. One protester got to a microphone during a panel discussion and asked Michael Heid, president of Wells Fargo, a top national mortgage lender: "How do you sleep at night?"
MBA CEO David Stevens had warned Monday's conference that protesters were expected at the hotel and advised attendees not to "engage or confront" the demonstrators.
In a statement, the MBA said those attending its meeting in Chicago were focused on sustainable home ownership and ensuring access to affordable mortgage credit for qualified homeowners. - Reuters