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Community protest prompts secret meeting by Alderman

Global protests inspire local protests of global corporations and their effect on communities. In August hundreds of residents of a neighborhood in Chicago gathered at the office of their elected official to protest the local expansion of Starbucks. "Poor and working class people are being moved out of their homes as this corporation takes over. Jose Bove protested McDonalds as a symbolic and an actual problem. We are protesting Starbucks for similar reasons," said a protest organizer.
Carrying signs calling for "Development Without Displacement" and "Brew Your Own Reality--Support Locally-Owned Business," and a puppet of the 47th Ward Chicago Alderman, Eugene Schulter, to send the message that developers and big business pull this elected official's strings, protesters at a rally in August 2000 symbolically evicted the "Alderpuppet" for selling our their community. The marchers posted a "eviction notice" on the window of the Alderman's office and then proceeded to march to the site of one of three proposed new Starbucks, where they hoisted a banner marking the at-that-point unannounced location for one of the coffee shops, as well as 32 new condo units. Then the group marched to the site of an existing Starbucks where they created a six foot long petition to the Alderman filled with pleas from residents to slow the pace of development, create and preserve afforable housing, and ban global chains from the community. The protest drew a diverse group--high school students marched arm-in-arm, and a number of those carrying signs were long-time residents. One said he'd been in the neighborhood for 40 years. And another participant said, "This is the best protest I've been to in this neighborhood since 1932."

That petition, along with a letter from the organizers of the protest, a loosely assembled group of neighborhood residents calling themselves 47WARD.ORG, after a website they developed to continue the conversation about issues of development, gentrification, and corporations' roles in displacement of people from their homes, was delivered to the Alderman twice--once a week after the rally by registed letter, and once as a "fax zap" to his office. The letter accompanying the petition called for an open forum or community meeting on the issues raised by petition signers.

While the Alderman, closely affiliated with the new Daly administration, was widely reported to have been flustered and angered by the press this event received, he did not respond to the protest concerns. The Alderman has never acknowledged the request for an open meeting or the petition. A local newspaper, Inside, dated September 27 - October 3, reported this week that the Alderman held a by-invitation-only meeting with Chambers of Commerce, business owners, and representatives from Starbucks on Sept. 13, excluding all other community residents.

The organizers of the rally in August ask readers to visit the website at where they can send a message to Alderman Schulter protesting this action, and calling for an open and democratic forum on the issues raised at the rally. Visitors to the website can also see photos of this protest, the Alderpuppet, and find links to sites about Starbucks.



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