As the budget stalemate in Springfield continues, several grassroots activists and clergy with Fair Economy Illinois participated in an act of civil disobedience during a downtown Chicago protest for "fair share" state revenue options. Progress Illinois provides highlights from the "Moral Monday" demonstration, during which seven protesters were taken into police custody.
Seven Illinois activists participated in civil disobedience late Monday afternoon during a Chicago "Moral Monday" protest against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget cuts.
As part of the protest, a few hundred clergy and grassroots activists with Fair Economy Illinois marched from the Thompson Center to 131 S. Dearborn St., the downtown office building of Citadel LLC. The hedge fund firm's founder and CEO Ken Griffin has given Rauner millions in campaign donations.
Seven protesters, including five religious leaders, were taken into Chicago police custody after refusing to leave the Citadel building lobby, where they held up a banner reading, "Rauner/Griffin. Fair Budget Now! No Cuts! Tax the Rich!"
Chicago police news affairs could not immediately provide information about the incident.
During the demonstration, activists chanted, "Love thy neighbor as thyself. Tax the rich and share the wealth." They also staged a "die-in" outside the Citadel building while the seven protesters were being put into police vehicles.
"The main message today is that we have a choice here in Illinois between cutting critical services for our fellow citizens, or we can actually raise revenue from those who are doing the most well-off -- the top 1 percent and corporations," said protester Drew Rindfleisch, pastor at San Lucas United Church of Christ in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood.
Here's scenes from today's 'Moral Monday' protest:
The protest took place amid an ongoing stalemate between Democratic leaders and Rauner over a budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The state government will begin to shut down if a new budget is not adopted by July 1.
In the 2016 fiscal year, the state faces a $6 billion budget deficit, due mostly to the rollback of the 2011 temporary income tax hike. Democrats want to see that budget hole closed with a combination of cuts and new revenues. Rauner -- whose fiscal plan calls for no new revenues and proposes deep cuts to a range of programs and services -- vetoed most of the Democrat-passed legislative budget proposal last week due to its $4 billion shortfall. Rauner did sign a budget bill for K-12 and early childhood education.
The governor wants "structural reforms" adopted, like workers' compensation changes, tort reform and a property tax freeze, before new revenues are considered. Democrats, however, have described Rauner's proposals as extreme and consider them to be non-budgetary issues.
To avoid deep budget cuts, Fair Economy Illinois is advocating for "fair-share" revenue solutions, including a graduated income tax, a financial transaction tax and the closure of corporate tax "loopholes."
"We're facing massive cuts across the board to education, health care, social services, and these cuts are entirely unnecessary," said Fair Economy Illinois leader Toby Chow. "This is a wealthy state. The problem is that the wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few ... If we tax those who can afford to pay more, the wealthy and large corporations who are very profitable, then there's more than enough money to not just support existing programs, but to even expand them."
With a government shutdown looming, Rindfleisch said people who depend on state services are concerned.
"Folks are going to lose their homeless shelters. They're gonna lose critical services around youth programs that make sure kids aren't on the streets," he said of the potential impacts of a government shutdown. "This is life and death for a lot of people."
Earlier this month, "Moral Monday" activists staged a similar protest against state budget cuts to critical programs. Seven people were arrested and another 20 were issued citations during that protest, which targeted the downtown office of billionaire investor and Rauner ally Sam Zell.