Moral Mondays Illinois comes to the North Side

by David Lee, Community Journalism Intern

As the increasing tension of Illinois’ budget impasse hurts our communities, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago supports clergy and community members protesting the ethics behind the looming cuts during Moral Mondays Illinois.

ONE Northside and Fair Economy Illinois led more than 200 people marching through Uptown. Speakers and representatives approached the budget as a moral document and argued state leaders show a lack of decency when they divert money away from essential community programs.

“Too many politicians are convinced that our government is broke,” said Peter Fugiel, a protester working for The People’s Lobby. “We need to change the narrative that we don’t have money to fund these programs. It’s not a question of whether people are deserving; it’s about investing in public goods.”

Community members packed buses to the home of one of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s biggest donors, Beth Christie, who donated $400,000 to Rauner’s campaign and is a board member for the Illinois Policy Institute. Christie made millions by selling baby care products company Avent Holdings in 2006.

Mothers with no child care, college students with raised tuition, former public service employees without jobs and many other angry community members aired their grievances over a megaphone outside the estate. Police quickly arrived at the surprise action and shut down the demonstration. No one was arrested.

Christie was out of the country Monday, but organizers still believe the protest was a success.

“(Christie) will get the word and she will know, even though she wasn’t here,” said Mariano Lopez, a spokesperson for Moral Mondays Illinois. “We got the message out that we need to.”

The message is simple: balance the budget by increasing taxes on the wealthy instead of burdening the state’s most vulnerable. Close corporate loopholes so the richest don’t finagle their way out of millions in taxes.

Moral Mondays Illinois occurs every other Monday. The next one is slated for Aug. 24 at 11 a.m.

Inspiration Corporation, which provides services for people experiencing homelessness, has been deeply impacted by the impasse. According to Evan Johnson, the Chief Development Officer, the budget has already forced the organization to lay off three case managers and operate at what he calls the “lowest common denominator.”

The march began with a rally on Broadway Ave. and Wilson St. and went to the front of Alternatives, a youth center affected by the impasse.

“Love thy neighbor as thyself. Tax the richest, share the wealth,” protesters chanted as they walked raising signs.

Moral Mondays began in North Carolina when faith leaders and protesters organized civil disobediences at the state level. With Illinois’ continuing budget crisis, Moral Mondays have adapted to our state by focusing on the principles behind the budget. There is a strong religious affiliation in the event and many clergy speak openly about political issues impacting their congregations.

“This is important because the same way once a week we do our prayers, once a week we get together to organize around what’s important,” Lopez said.

David Lee is the Community Journalism Intern with Advancing Justice | Chicago. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidYLee95) or contact him by email.