Rahm’s not home, but protesters streaming past his house
BY LISA DONOVAN, KIM JANSSEN AND JON SEIDEL Staff Reporters May 19, 2012 9:56AM
Warning, may contain graphic language.
Updated: July 1, 2012 12:28PM
Rowdy but peaceful protesters turned their ire Saturday toward Mayor Rahm Emanuel, enduring the year’s first 90-degree day to march outside his North Side home.
But the rally likely bothered Emanuel’s neighbors more than the mayor — he wasn’t home.
A wall of Chicago police officers guarded his property. Neighbors watched from their porches, lawns and sidewalks. Some demonstrators knocked on their doors earlier in the day, asking if they knew where to find mental health services.
Later in the evening, after the larger crowd dispersed, about 20 of them returned, sat in the street and ate pizza they had delivered to the mayor’s address.
It was one of several protest marches Saturday that filtered through Chicago as heads of state were expected to arrive for the much-anticipated NATO Summit. And it prompted a statement from the mayor’s office insisting the “Emanuel Administration respects the First Amendment rights of all to demonstrate and express their views.”
The mental health clinics — and their closures — gave the protesters outside Emanuel’s house a cause for their march. They tied it to the summit arguing money spent on NATO could be used to help the mentally ill.
They chanted “Healthcare — not warfare!”
“NATO causes exactly the type of disabilities for which people end up needing mental health centers,” said Rachel Siler of Rogers Park.
The protesters began at a North Side Brown Line stop Saturday morning, and they hit the mayor’s neighborhood from there.
“We want to go ask his neighbors if they know where to find mental health services because he closed down all of our clinics,” Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of the Mental Health Movement told assembled protesters.
In the morning, the mayor was downtown, at the Hotel Sax in Marina City, speaking at the Chicago Young Atlanticist Summit, sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
After a small bunch of them canvassed Emanuel’s neighborhood they gathered at Horner Park to prepare for the larger show. There they danced, sang and pumped themselves up for the march.
“We are not going to back down until these clinics remain open — all mental health clinics remaining open, all public health clinics remain open and the mayor commits to opening more clinics,” said Paul Nappier of Albany Park.
Hundreds of protesters then massed in the street on Montrose Avenue as they headed back to the mayor’s house. Helicopters buzzed overhead.
At one point, protesters strung a sign across Montrose at Wolcott, near a Starbucks, shutting down the street entirely, before police quickly showed up and dispersed the crowd, one witness said. Traffic on Montrose returned to normal.
Then they turned south on to Hermitage, taking their signs and slogans to the mayor’s house. They sat down in the middle of the street but, in one of the day’s lighter moments, sat one house north of the mayor’s.
“I wasn’t sure where it was. It was bright blue last time,” said one protester, who declined to give her name.
They made speeches, chanted, and then most of them left, leaving a few to linger behind with the media.
Emanuel’s office said it’s just as committed to promoting Chicagoans’ health and wellness as it is to protecting First Amendment rights.
“The reforms the Department of Public Health is implementing,” it said in a statement, “will increase the total number of people who will be served by city resources throughout Chicago with high-quality, vital health and mental health services, and better support people without health insurance.”
Contributing: Kara Spak