A peaceful rally morphed into a more-than-two-hour long march through downtown Friday afternoon, stopping traffic and tourists dead in their tracks.
Several hundred protesters from the Occupy movement and other activist groups snaked through Chicago’s loop for more than two hours, stopping periodically to decide which way to move next and occasionally coming up against lines of police in riot gear.
The rally, put on by the National Nurses United, remained peaceful.
“It’s kind of like the Christmas festival, except without the christmas tree and the german sausage,” said Dennis Kosuth, a nurse at Cook Co. Hospital, referring to the Christkindlmarket, a German festival held in Daley Plaza every year.
Nurses were decked out in red scrubs and green “Robin Hood” hats. That’s because they want to see Congress enact a financial transaction tax to help fund social programs rather than cut them.
“It’s essentially a sales tax on the selling of stocks, bonds, derivatives and currency,” said Ken Zinn. The tax, he estimates, would bring in $350 billion each year.
Ken Zinn's explanation of the tax:
The City of Chicago gave the nurses’ union a permit for the rally. Around 1:30 p.m., just 30 minutes before the rally was scheduled to end, police handed out notices reminding people they had to clear the plaza by 2 p.m.
The handout listed state and city statutes such as, “it is against the law to walk along a roadway when a sidewalk is present” and “it is against the law for pedestrians to hinder, obstruct or delay traffic.”
But within an hour, protesters marched out into the city streets, blocking traffic, banging on drums and, at times, taunting the police officers biking alongside the crowd.
Most nurses had left Daley Plaza on buses and did not join the march.
Protesters shut down traffic as they took over major streets, including Michigan Avenue, Wacker Drive, and Randolph. Occasionally, they danced in the middle of an intersection.
Marchers chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!”
Police did not stop the march, but did try to contain the protesters.
Protesters on the scene: