Demonstrators at a National Nurses United rally at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago today said that they were nervous violence might overshadow the nurses’ message of economic equality in what was billed as the second biggest event in a week of NATO summit-related protests.
But the two-hour event was without much incident, despite a crowd that likely exceeded the 2,000 people the nurses union said would attend.
Nurses – most dressed like Robin Hood to promote a “Robin Hood” or financial transaction tax on Wall Street traders – staged an orderly and often light-hearted event, featuring a mock G8 summit and musical interludes.
The rally concluded with acoustic numbers from guitarist Tom Morello, formerly of Rage Against The Machine: City officials worried aloud last week that the presence of Morello would increase rally attendance to dangerous levels.
Speakers spoke out against President Barack Obama for his alleged Wall Street friendly policies and also relocating this weekend’s G8 summit from Chicago to Camp David. Many poked fun at Obama “for being scared by a bunch of nurses.”
A few slammed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for briefly revoking the rally permit last week and also making an ordeal out of protesters getting a permit for Sunday’s march to the NATO summit (the nunber one anticipated event of the week).
“Do not let the city of Chicago; do not let the federal government intimidate you from exercising your first amendment rights,” said Andy Thayer, a lead organizer for Sunday’s protest.
Morello also expressed his displeasure.
“The mayor’s office tried to shut this whole thing down,” Morello claimed. “How ridiculous for the mayor’s office to think that I would do something to hurt Chicago or encourage people to do something to hurt Chicago.”
Here is video of Thayer, Morello and the protesters:
Prior to the rally, demonstrators such as Caroline Ediger of Chicago argued that the “message of economic justice has not gotten out because the press has been zeroing in on the problems.”
“The press is assuming that because there have been violent confrontations in the past that they are going to be problems,” Ediger said.
“I think that our messages get diluted,” argued demonstrator Andrew Shantz of Chicago. “There is a regular dismissing of us as hippies and anarchists.”
Separate marches that followed from the rally are unfolding – as of late afternoon, the Chicago Tribune reported on two separate arrests of marchers.
Also according to the Tribune, police estimated the rally attendance level at between 2,400 ro 2,700 people. While the number exceeds prior nurses union estimates, it is also far below the city’s stated 5,000 person capacity for Daley Plaza.