Even though almost all of the NATO protesters have packed away their signs and megaphones, they seem to have left their spirit of protest in the people of Chicago.
Fifteen protesters were arrested Wednesday in the first of a series of day-long protests against the multi-million dollar tax breaks given to CME Group last year under legislation signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.
The protesters said the breaks have unfairly affected Illinois families, in the form of about $77 million in budget cuts to programs for home care for seniors and people with disabilities.
Wednesday's rally was outside the Chicago Board of Trade, a subsidiary of CME Group. When the protest moved to a sit-in on a crosswalk at Jackson and LaSalle, several protesters were arrested by Chicago police for blocking traffic.
"We’re here to show CME officials how much it costs the 99 percent when billion-dollar corporations demand tax breaks they clearly don’t need," said Rachel Siler.
Siler said she was among those who have been affected by lack of funding for home care.
"When the state pampers greedy corporations, it punishes working families. People like me lose vital services like home care, and taxpayers have to spend more on nursing homes," she said.
Quinn signed the legislation late last year after CME Group threatened to flee the state. The company earned almost $2 billion in revenue for the year.
Shortly after the major tax break, child care, home care, and health care services by Medicaid all received drastic cuts in funding.
"It’s time we bust this myth about Illinois being broke," said Mike Ervin, another protester. "Our budget deficit is caused by tax policies that let greedy corporations and the rich make out like bandits, while everyone else pays the price. We need a fair tax policy that ends tax breaks for wealthy corporations and asks the rich to pay their fair share."
The protests are organized by Stand Up! Chicago, which includes several community, labor, and faith-based organizations all with the same message: "Give back our tax dollars!"