Nearly 3 Dozen Demonstrators Could Face Charges After Budget Protest in Springfield

Charges are pending against nearly three dozen demonstrators after protesters stormed the state Capitol in Springfield as lawmakers continued to battle over the state's ongoing budget woes. 

Thirty-four activists, who were part of a March to Springfield, gathered in front of Gov. Bruce Rauner's office Tuesday, refusing to leave until state police arrived. 

With lawmakers set to adjourn Wednesday at midnight and no budget deal in sight, activists expressed their disdain that lawmakers have yet to reach a compromise on Illinois’ 700th day without a budget.

"What do we want? Universal mental healthcare," they chanted. "When do we want it? Now." 

Just after 10:30 p.m., those refusing to move were arrested. 

About a dozen protesters were also removed from the Illinois House of Representatives on Tuesday after disrupting one of the final days of the legislative session. It was not immediately clear if they might face charges as well. 

Many of those participating represent social service agencies that have not been paid during the nearly two-yearlong impasse.

The protesters arrived in Springfield to show their determination for legislators to reach a compromise, with about a dozen walking all the way from Chicago to send a message.

"People are angry because they’re hurting,” said Kristi Sanford, of activist group The People’s Lobby. “So we have people who’ve marched 15 days and 200 miles from Chicago to Springfield because they’ve lost loved ones without health care, or they can’t get the mental health care they need, or their schools are underfunded or their MAP grants have been taken away.”

With session winding down, and few expressing optimism that lawmakers will find a way to compromise, it appears that more protests over the final days in Springfield are likely.

"There are people in the General Assembly who agree with us," Rauner said Tuesday. "We need to change. The system is broken."

The activists arrested Tuesday night could face charges for criminal trespassing. 

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