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Teachers’ March Targets Pritzker Family; Disrupts Traffic Downtown

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Thousands of Chicago Public Schools teachers and their supporters crowd into Congress Plaza, along Michigan Avenue, during the fourth day of the teachers' strike on Sept. 13, 2012. (Credit: CBS)

Thousands of Chicago Public Schools teachers and their supporters crowd into Congress Plaza, along Michigan Avenue, during the fourth day of the teachers’ strike on Sept. 13, 2012. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Thousands of striking teachers and their supporters were marching down Michigan Avenue on Thursday, after rallying outside a hotel owned by the billionaire family of a Chicago Board of Education member.

On the fourth day of the teachers’ strike, protesters targeted school board member Penny Pritzker, whose family owns the Hyatt hotel chain.

At 3:30 p.m., thousands of demonstrators dressed in red gathered outside the Hyatt Regency Chicago, at 151 E. Wacker Dr., protesting the $5.2 million in TIF money the city provided for a new Hyatt hotel in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Around 4 p.m., they began marching south on Michigan Avenue toward the South Loop.

Protesters said the TIF money spent on the Hyatt in Hyde Park would have been better used to improve schools in the neighborhood, and avoid budget cuts that have hurt the local schools.

“I think it’s really important to bring awareness to the fact that, according to what I found out, $5.2 million has been given to developers, so that they could build hotels in blighted areas of Hyde Park,” teacher Bret Roberts said. “That’s money that could have gone to classrooms, and computers, so many other things.”

Protesters chanted “give it back,” saying the Hyatt chain should return the TIF money spent to help pay for construction of the Hyde Park hotel to the city, so the money could be used for schools.

Chris Taylor, a counselor and case manager at Jordan Elementary Community School, held up a sign claiming seven schools in and near Hyde Park have been closed recently, while TIF money went to the new Hyatt.

“I’m hoping that [Penny Pritzker] notices the protest, and stands up for all the students in the city of Chicago, because that’s what we’re fighting for today,” Taylor said.

The march down Michigan Avenue forced the CTA to reroute several buses as the rally headed south toward Congress Plaza — at Michigan Avenue and Congress Parkway — a couple blocks from the nearby Chicago Hilton and Towers hotel, where contract talks were being held between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public Schools.

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