Chicago police arrest 15 at futures exchange protest
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Police arrested 15 people blocking the main artery through Chicago's financial district on Wednesday during a demonstration against state tax breaks won last year by CME Group, the world's largest futures exchange company.
The 15 men and women, three of whom were in wheelchairs, were escorted to the nearby plaza in front of the Chicago Board of Trade building, where they were detained in an area cordoned off with yellow tape while officers wrote tickets. CME owns the Board of Trade, which offers futures on corn, soybeans and Treasuries.
"CME needs to pay their taxes," said Annette Jones, 69, after she was ticketed and released. She said her job as a home health worker is threatened by state spending cuts, and that if CME paid its "fair share" those cuts might not be necessary.
Most of those arrested were wearing signs on their chests that read, "CME: Give it back" and "Stop home care cuts."
The demonstration began just hours before the CME's annual shareholders' meeting. Protesters expected to join later Wednesday afternoon with a rally of Chicago public school teachers, who are in the midst of contract talks with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Late last year the Illinois legislature changed the tax code to cut about $85 million from CME's annual tax bill by 2014 after the exchange operator threatened to move out of state. The change also gave a $15 million tax break to Sears Holdings, which also had threatened to relocate.
The demonstrators said the tax breaks would lead to cuts in Illinois social services, such as home health care. Illinois legislators are facing a May 31 deadline to craft a deal to plug the state's chronic budget deficit.
UNFAIR TAXATION CHARGED
A CME spokesman said the recent tax changes were necessary to keep CME competitive to "solidify Chicago's place as the risk management capital of the world." Without the changes, CME executives have said, the exchange operator would be unfairly taxed on revenue generated by out-of-state electronic traders.
About 50 people interrupted CME's annual meeting Wednesday with chants of "pay your fair share," and were escorted from the auditorium where the meeting was held.
Police allowed the protest to block traffic for about half an hour before asking the chanting demonstrators to move to the sidewalks. Most did immediately, while those who remained sitting in the intersection were escorted away individually. They were not handcuffed.
Mike Ervin, a member of ADAPT Chicago, a disability rights group, and one of the demonstration's organizers, said CME's tax cuts made him angry because they threatened the in-home help that allows him and other disabled people to live independently.
"The whole spirit (of protest) has made me feel more optimistic than I've felt in a long time," he said.
One of the protesters Wednesday was Charles Brown, a retired Chicago Police officer with 23 years on the force. "I'm here because it's time for rich corporations like the CME to stop profiting from our suffering and pay their fair share," Brown said.
The peaceful demonstration contrasted with a much larger anti-war protest on Sunday in Chicago at the start of a NATO summit, where police dressed in riot gear and blue helmets clashed with hundreds of protesters. At least 45 people were arrested and more than a dozen protesters injured, although none were seriously hurt.
(Reporting By Ann Saphir, James Kelleher and Mary Wisniewski; Writing by Tom Polansek; Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Greg McCune and Cynthia Osterman)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this