Nurses plan federal lawsuit over protest march
The nation's largest nurses union blasted Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wednesday and vowed to file a federal lawsuit against the city for revoking the group's permit to hold a downtown rally two days before the NATO summit.
The city told National Nurses United on Tuesday that it would move a rally scheduled for noon on May 18 at downtown's Daley Plaza to a band shell on Lake Michigan because a scheduled performance by former "Rage Against the Machine" guitarist Tom Morello would draw several thousand more people than expected, exceeding the plaza's 5,000-person capacity and potentially causing traffic problems on a business day. The city also said that event and a parade to the venue would be canceled unless the union agreed to the changes.
But union officials claimed Emanuel wants to silence their calls for a "Robin Hood" tax on financial institutions to offset cuts in social services, education and health care.
Jan Rodolfo, the union's Midwest director, and Harvey Grossman, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the city's claims are meritless because it has allowed even larger weekday demonstrations at Daley Plaza -- including about 8,000 marchers during a 2010 May Day march -- and allowed Oprah Winfrey to shut down part of the North Michigan Avenue shopping district to tape a show as about 20,000 looked on. What's more, he said, the plaza long has been recognized as a gathering place for public demonstrations.
"People have a choice of which forum they want to use, and this is perfectly appropriate for (the nurses union)," Grossman said.
He said the nurses want to attract people who will be downtown at the time of their rally, but that's not possible at the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park, where the city wants to protesters to move, because there is no street or pedestrian traffic.
Rodolfo said the union expected about 2,000 nurses to attend the rally, despite the city's claims that it could draw far more than 5,000.
"Envision 2,000 nurses and a musician with an acoustic guitar and ask yourself: Is that really a national security threat or going to completely congest downtown?" Rodolfo said.
Chicago Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew has said the changes were made to ensure the safety of the participants.
The union had scheduled the rally for the first day of the G-8 Summit, which originally was to be held in Chicago but since has been moved to Camp David, Md. The NATO summit will be held in Chicago May 20-21 and also is expected to draw thousands of protesters.
Union officials said they would still hold the rally if they're ultimately forced to use Grant Park.
"Chicago is an international city that the entire world will be focused on," Rodolfo said. "We believe this is the right place to be."