Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=190196
Story Retrieval Date: 3/7/2014 12:06:09 PM CST
Thousands of Chicago workers are taking to the streets of the Loop for a week-long mass demonstration organized by the community activism organization Take Back Chicago.
The protests are timed to coincide with the Futures Industry Association and Mortgage Bankers Association expos in Chicago this week.
The rallies kicked off Monday with separate issue-focused marches on education, jobs and housing. Thousands of educators and Chicago Teachers Union representatives marched through Loop streets in the education-focused rally. They later converged with the other marches
in front of The Art Institute of Chicago.
“The people who are in power need to realize how frustrated everyone is getting and they need to respond and not just ignore us because we’re not going away,” said Vera Harris, a fourth grade teacher from Lewis Elementary School in the North Austin neighborhood at Monday’s march.
Teachers at the event voiced various frustrations, including lack of school funding, overcrowded classrooms and corporate apathy.
“I want to make sure the needs of my students are heard,” said Harris, about her reasons for joining the demonstration She teaches in a classroom of 35 students, which exceeds CPS guidelines, with just one computer to serve them all.
“I hope [this march] is going to accomplish a reaction, a response, somebody paying attention to us.”
The Take Back Chicago rallies are happening simultaneously with the Occupy Wall St. protests taking place in New York, Chicago and elsewhere around the country. The protests have mobilized thousands of people frustrated with current economic conditions.
“In terms of action on specific items, this movement is probably far too diffused and non-specific right now to actually get there,” said Charles Tocci, secondary education professor at National Louis University.
“But there is a lot of value in these types of events,” said Tocci. “That sort of networking and connecting at the most basic level is really heartening and provides a lot of energy for the movement to go forward.”
Organizers estimated that 7,500 people participated in Monday’s rallies.
“It was great to see so many different people out on the streets bringing attention to the fact that people need jobs,” said Lauren Cumbia, deputy director of Stand Up! Chicago, one of Take Back Chicago’s member organizations.
“We really see that jobs are the link to all of these issues. If people had good solid jobs, that would allow for families to focus on making sure that kids are getting the education they deserve.”