Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=193622
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Nicole Goodrich/MEDILL

The Grassroots Collaborative organized a Corporate Welfare Tour in support of the Responsible Budget Ordinance during Take Back Chicago's week of action in October.


Take Back Chicago protests are long gone, but energy has not faded, organizers say

by Nicole Goodrich
Nov 01, 2011


More than two weeks after the fact, Take Back Chicago’s week of action may already seem like a distant memory for many. But for the organizers, it is a different story.
The people behind the movement that galvanized about 7,000 protesters say their efforts have changed the conversation in Chicago, giving advocacy groups the opportunity and energy to direct focus on their core issues.
“I think it was an overwhelming success from every angle,” said Catherine Murrel, the spokeswoman for Take Back Chicago. “We were listening to just how the average person in the street responded, and they showed incredible interest.”
The Take Back Chicago week of action kicked off Oct. 10 with a march through the Loop to the Art Institute. During the next three days, the group organized separate protests around the issues of homes, schools and jobs.

Members of Occupy Chicago joined many of the protests.
Because the Take Back Chicago week of protests was planned months in advance, the overlap with Occupy Chicago protests was just chance, Murrel said. That chance brought new energy to the protest movement, said Amisha Patel, director of the Grassroots Collaborative, a member of the Take Back Chicago coalition.
“The timing of it all really brought it to the next level,” Patel said. “People were feeling for the first time that this was their city.”
The energy from the protests has carried into the advocacy groups’ continuing actions, organizers said.
“There has been a lot of excitement,” Murrel said. “A lot of people are saying, ‘What can we do next?’”
For the Take Back Chicago coalition, the next step is focusing attention on the jobs plan the group introduced during the Oct. 13 jobs protests. The jobs plan would put a speculation fee of 25 cents on the riskiest trades at Chicago’s exchanges. The group says the measure would create 40,000 new jobs and cut Chicago’s unemployment rate by a quarter.
“This is a solution that would have a concrete impact on employment in Chicago,” Murrel said.
The coalition has not received any response from politicians, but Murrel said that group’s focus is on persuading the general public.
“If the communities want to embrace this, then the politicians have to follow suit,” Murrel said.
The Grassroots Collaborative is continuing work to support the Responsible Budget Ordinance introduced to the City Council by Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd). The ordinance would require TIF districts with an unallocated balance of more than $5 million to return 50 percent of that balance back to the funding bodies, like schools, parks and libraries. The Grassroots Collaborative organized a protest during the Take Back Chicago week of action in support of the proposed ordinance.
“We’re figuring out what we’re able to do to keep pressure on the aldermen to pass this legislation,” Patel said. “Once the budget is passed, we’re figuring out what the next piece is we want to push in 2012.”
Patel says the group considers Mayor Emanuel’s promise to return 20 percent of unallocated TIF money a victory, but the proposed ordinance is at a standstill.
“This isn’t a budget crisis,” Patel said, “It’s a revenue crisis.”
While they are planning future actions, the Take Back Chicago coalition is lending support to the Occupy Chicago movement. Several members were among the more than 300 Occupy Chicago protesters in Grant Park.
“People just seem really interested in this idea of holding banks accountable,” Murrel said.