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National Nurses United rally outside Daley Plaza

By Shannon Shreibak
On May 18, 2012

The Daley Plaza itself is a grand spectacle-a visually intimidating building hovering high above Chicago, scattering brilliant beams of sunlight into blinding, glistening prisms. But it was a much grander sight today-with hundreds of nurses sporting Kelly green felt Robin Hood hats, forcing red and white picket signs into the clear Chicago sky, and swaying to The Rolling Stones ballad "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

The 3rd National Nurses United (NNU) assembly convened at Daley Plaza today at noon. Nurses and supporters of NNU'S cause demonstrated to promote awareness of the current financial crisis' affect on nurses and other public programs.

"We are trying to create awareness of how nurses are affected by this economic crisis," Deborah Burger, RN, President of National Nurses United said. "We are here to make sure that NATO and G8 know that their priorities are upside-down and that they need to focus on the community."

As nurses and supporters gathered in the plaza, classic protest songs blared from the massive sound system, booming throughout downtown Chicago. After each Co-President of NNU spoke, members of community organizations spoke about the dismal economy's effect on public programs and the remedy that they believe Wall Street can offer.

The rally also featured a skit performed by actors satirizing what transpired at Camp David during the G8 summit, or, "The World's Largest Casino." The sketch included each country, guiltlessly betting the well-being of its citizens ("the future of the youth of Europe," "privatizing the national healthcare system") in exchange for their imperialistic goals. The skit wrapped with a sarcastic rendition of "Viva Las Vegas."

The day continued with speakers from local organizations and community activists. The air was charged with undeniable electricity as nurses shouted chants including "bank got bailed out, we got sold out." The rally continued with several speakers from local organizations, punctuated by comments from members of NNU.

Organizations including Occupy Chicago and Chicago teachers also gave their support at the rally. All organizations agreed that the Robin Hood Tax would serve to greatly improve many public programs including healthcare, education and environmental safety. According to NNU and supporting organizations, this sales tax on Wall Street will supposedly raise $350 billion internationally, with Illinois generating $4 billion alone. "Wall Street got us into this mess, they can get us out," Burger, RN, said. 

"We are watching Wall Street throw money away as people die. They need to pay sales tax," We will not go away," Karen Higgins, RN, Co-President of NNU, said. "This is only the beginning. We will not turn our backs on the people of this country."

The rally ended on a triumphant note, as enthusiastic NNU supporter and Rage Against The Machine guitar virtuoso Tom Morello performed a 30-minute set. Fellow musicians, including a member of Rise Against, cranked out a packed set list including classic protest songs. Morello shredded angrily during a cover of "The Ghost of Tom Joad," written by Bruce Springsteen ("the only boss worth listening to," according to Morello). Morello invited protestors onstage alongside him and ended with an uncensored version of "This Land Is Your Land"

Mindful of the window of time permitted by Mayor Emanuel, protestors disbursed quickly after the concert. Many nurses filed onto buses while others remained at the plaza and began marching down State Street past rows of police officers. They marched off into the industrial downtown horizon until all that could be seen were those Kelly green hats.

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