National Nurses United members said today that they plan to file a legal challenge with the city of Chicago, after the city told them to change their rally destination for a Friday, May 18 protest, prior to Chicago hosting the NATO summit May 20 and 21.
“We are prepared to seek injunctive relief in federal court,” said Jan Rodolfo (right in photo), the Midwest director of National Nurses United at a press conference outside City Hall.
The city demand comes five months after the Chicago Department of Transportation, or CDOT, approved the route. CDOT asserts that the protest would bring in significantly more people than the 1,000 to 2,000 people National Nurses United said it would draw thanks to national advertising and also the presence of musician Tom Morello. Additional people could disrupt traffic, CDOT contends.
The nurses will challenge the city moving the rally from Daley Plaza, which is in the center of downtown Chicago, to the Petrillo band shell in Grant Park, a few blocks east of the city center. Rodolfo argued that the city is trying to keep protesters from being visible, and also that it will be difficult for disabled people to access the Petrillo band shell.
The challenge will also look at the deadline imposed by CDOT in a letter yesterday that calls for protesters to decide by tomorrow, Thursday, as to whether they will accept the changed permit.
If this conflict sounds familiar, it is because CDOT entered a legal dispute two months ago with NATO protesters over whether a May 20 rally would start in Daley Plaza or the Petrillo band shell, with CDOT raising traffic concerns. Protesters eventually agreed to start the rally at the Petrillo band shell, after the city assured them a route through downtown.
The traffic issues around the May 20 NATO protest will be due to motorcades shuttling diplomats from downtown hotels to the McCormick Place convention center for the NATO summit.
The May 18 traffic issues appear less extraordinary. In its letter, CDOT cites “workday traffic patterns, ongoing road construction projects, and other events, including the Crosstown Classic baseball game at Wrigley Field, taking place in the city on that date.”
The letter mainly builds the case that thanks to advertising and former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Morello, the nurses group could draw more than 5,000 protesters.
Rodolfo said that the nurses do not expect more than 2,00 people.
As for the substance of the protest, nurses planned the rally when the since relocated G8 economic summit was scheduled for Chicago. Protesters will not focus on the military issues to be considered at the May 20 NATO rally, but economic ones – including a push for a sales tax on Wall Street transactions. “As bedside nurses every single day, we see what happens because of the economic crisis,” Rodolfo said.