The 99 percent in Chicago

Toma Lynn Smith |

A shrill sound pierced my ears yesterday as a young boy blew a whistle directly beside me. That boy was there to make noise with hundreds of others to cry out against the unfair tax breaks of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group. With Arise Chicago, an IWJ affiliate in Chicago, I chanted: “We are the 99 percent!”

"people's shareholder's meeting"

Prior to the rally, with other community activists, Shelly Ruzicka and Micah Utrecht from Arise were dressed in suits as “shareholders,” and shared their outcry at CME’s board meeting. “The demonstrators who disrupted the meeting were protesting a move last year by the Illinois legislature to cut about $85 million from CME's annual tax bill by 2014 after the massive exchange operator threatened to move out of state,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

The message was clear: the 99 percent pays their fair share and the one percent does not. Supporters watched as Chicagoans shared testimonials. An Arise member shared a story of her brother and sister, ages 47 and 48, passed away because of unaffordable and inaccessible healthcare. "The system is broken," she told the crowd.

Others shared stories including a recent war veteran unable to get adequate care for suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; another man shared how ravaged his Englewood community is by unemployment; another shared how he and his community are planning their own fundraiser to save a local park.

Then the crowd took over one side of LaSalle with a band of a baton twirler, players of drums, trombone, and trumpet pausing to sing, “Give back that money, money, give back the money.”  As we neared  the Chicago Board of Trade building, affiliated with CME, we sung, "When the Saints Go Marching In."

The people spoke, sang and played instruments yesterday, and it looks like the chanting and singing will continue as long as severe economic injustice exists. Help us continue to call for a more just economic system, support IWJ with a gift today.

Toma Lynn Smith is IWJ's new Individual Outreach Coordinator and part of the development team. Toma participated in the action with Arise Chicago yesterday and other community organizations.