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'Moral Monday' Demonstrators Protest State Budget Cuts

By aaroncynic in News on Jun 16, 2015 8:35PM

Seven people were arrested for criminal trespass and another 21 were issued citations for blocking traffic at the latest in a series of “Moral Mondays” protests downtown yesterday. About 150 clergy and activists rallied at the Thompson Center and later marched to Riverside Plaza, to protest what they say will be harmful cuts to social services by Governor Bruce Rauner that will disproportionately affect poor and middle class people.

“Under the best of circumstances it is not easy to get a camel through the eye of a needle,” said Bishop Wayne Miller, of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. “But I can tell you for sure you’re never going to get it through if you’re not aiming in the right place…if you’re off the mark.” Miller, who was among those cited for blocking traffic, called Rauner and supporters of the budget “off the mark” for an ever growing list of cuts including Medicaid, services for senior citizens, people with disabilities and civil servants. “The primary and only purpose of good government is to defend the life and well-being of the most vulnerable in our society,” said Miller.

The demonstration came just ahead of the release of an ad by the governor to promote his “Turnaround Agenda,” which includes term limits, changes to workers compensation and a property tax freeze. In the ad Rauner refers to the cuts as “spending discipline,” and slams state lawmakers for not working with him. Critics, however, say that Rauner refuses to consider any alternative revenue options without agreeing to his agenda wholesale, effectively holding critics hostage. The protesters also took aim at billionaire Sam Zell, who donated $4 million to Rauner’s Turnaround Illinois Super PAC, which is dedicated to calling out the governor’s opponents and criticizing lawmakers who oppose his agenda.

“We refuse to be picked apart by divide and conquer tactics while our communities survive and suffer in this irresponsible state budget,” said Kristin Tendillia, an organizer with the group Fair Economy Illinois. “Governor Rauner has started to completely gut programs that are clearly an investment to our community.”

The group says that Rauner could instead, raise revenue by closing tax loopholes and taxing wealthy people and corporations who can afford it. Rabbi Brant Rosen, Midwest regional director for the American Friends Service Committee, said:

“The Hebrew word ‘tzedakah’ is often translated as ‘charity’ but it actually means ‘justice.’ Illinois’ governor and legislature must know the just and right thing to do is to raise revenue from wealthy and profitable corporations, instead of making budget cuts that will be deadly for the poor and devastating to our children.”