A coalition of activists from Occupy Milwaukee, Occupy Chicago, Occupy the Hood-Milwaukee, Occupy the Hood-Chicago, Occupy Riverwest, Students for a Democratic Society, Peace Action WI, Southside Together Organizing for Power, the Milwaukee Coalition to Protest NATO, Progressive Democrats of America, Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement, the Milwaukee Graduate Assistants Association, International Action Center, and the Chicago Mental Health Movement, and AFSCME assembled to protest Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel at a fundraiser for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee, Thursday. The cost of entry to the fundraiser ranged from $400 and $2,500.
Protesters say Emanuel has moved to privatize Chicago city services, including recycling, a push for charter schools while closing several public schools and closing community health centers. Chicago’s new city budget privatizes all seven of the cities neighborhood health centers as well as closing half (6 of 12) of the cities mental health facilities. In the last year, Emanuel has issued lay off notices for more than 600 city employees, replacing these positions with private contracted workers.
The protesters say the privatization of these positions and sectors has a negative impact on public sector unions across the city. At the same time of mass privatization, Emanuel has refused to meet with various labor leaders to discuss wages and benefits. Critics say this is much like Milwaukee Mayor Barrett’s refusal to meet with city employee (Milwaukee) labor leaders before Act 10 (elimination of nearly all collective bargaining rights) became law in Wisconsin last summer.
The NATO summit is to be held in Chicago, May 20-21. Emanuel has been granted unlimited spending authority by the Chicago City Council for security measures in anticipation of a mass protest. Security measures include over 3,000 face masks, that will fit over gas masks, and aerial surveillance. Protestors have been denied a permit to hold a march, but plan to move forward with the action anyways. About 10,000 people are anticipated to show up to protest the war in Afghanistan and the NATO summit.
Barrett is a likely candidate to run against Governor Walker in a recall election. Barrett says he will make an announcement on that sometime before Tuesday when Milwaukee holds its city election. If he runs against Walker, he will likely need more than the money he raised on Wednesday. Walker has already amassed a campaign war chest of $12 Million.
Video at top of page: Protesters confront police
Video below: More protests