Chicago reaches agreement with nurses over rally
The city of Chicago reached an agreement with the nation's largest nurses union on Friday over plans for a downtown rally two days before the NATO summit.
City law department spokesman Roderick Drew said the agreement reached with National Nurses United means no march or concert. Instead, the group will have a rally and be allowed to play a few songs on Daley Plaza for two hours on May 18. Participants will travel to and from the plaza via bus.
Drew said the agreement will "change the nature of the event" by eliminating the march and the concert.
Earlier this week, city officials told the nurses they would have to move the rally 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.
They claimed the plaza's 5,000-person capacity would be exceeded and potentially cause traffic problems on a business day. The city also said the event would be canceled unless the union agreed to changes.
Union officials claimed that Mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted to silence their calls for a "Robin Hood" tax on financial institutions to offset cuts in social services, education and health care. Thousands of union members were expected at the rally, which had been scheduled for the first day of the G-8 summit. That summit originally was to be held in Chicago but since has been moved to Camp David in Maryland.
The NATO summit will be held in Chicago May 20-21 and also is expected to draw thousands of protesters.
On Friday, the group said in a statement that the nurses welcomed the decision by the mayor to reverse efforts to block the rally.
"This is an important victory for democracy, for free speech rights, and for the voice of nurses to be heard as we sound the call for a new vision and new priorities to heal our nation and other G-8 countries from the pain and suffering inflicted on so many families," said Karen Higgins, co-president of National Nurses United.
Also hailing the agreement was Morello, who called it a great victory not only for the nurses union, free speech and the people of Chicago, but also for rock `n' roll.