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Protestors rip Republican cuts to housing budget, block downtown traffic

Protestors rip Republican cuts to housing budget, block downtown traffic, CHICAGO, march 2011

A protester is arrested by Chicago Police. Sixteen community groups protest federal budget cuts outside the Thompson Center on Friday evening, with several protesters arrested after blocking traffic at Clark Street on February 25, 2011. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

Hundreds of demonstrators protesting cuts to the federal housing budget shut down traffic at Clark and Randolph during the busy Friday night rush hour after several people formed a human chain across Clark.

Some 300 people gathered at the James R. Thompson Center plaza at 5 p.m. for the protest. About 10 minutes into the rally, about two-dozen protestors — including four in wheelchairs — linked arms across Clark near Randolph, stopping traffic. They set up cardboard boxes in the street that said, “Tea Party Housing Development.’’

Chicago Police Officers tried to convince the protestors to leave the street on their own accord, but most refused.

After about 10 minutes police vans pulled up and the protestors blocking the street were removed one by one and arrested. They were largely cooperative as they were escorted into the police vans. “I believe that getting arrested is a very small price to pay considering the costs to millions of Americans if these cuts go through,’’ said Hollie Trauger, 22, of Chicago. Trauger ultimately was not arrested.

According to police, a total of 11 people received citations for failure to obey an order to disperse.

While none of the disabled protestors were arrested, one officer took over the controls of a female protestor’s wheelchair to guide her to the sidewalk.

The demonstrators were protesting nearly $6 billion in housing programs cuts in a budget bill passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives. They urged passersby to call Illinois Sens. Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin to fight the cuts when the bill is taken up in the U.S. Senate.

Protestors said the proposed budget would force cuts in the Section 8 rental voucher program and in a program that provides heating assistance to the poor. The cuts would also eliminate funding for new units of public housing, eliminate new vouchers for homeless veterans and cut other programs.

The Senate, controlled by Democrats, is unlikely to go along with all of the cuts proposed by the Republican-controlled House. However, a budget proposed by the White House also includes some cuts to housing.

The demonstration was organized by the Chicago Housing Initiative and nine other groups.

“In this tough economy, it is unacceptable to cut a heating assistance program for low-income and elderly residents while there are pending billions of dollars in tax cuts for the rich,” said Michelle Young, president of Action Now, a group that works with the poor.


Chicago Sun-Times

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