Updated 05/23/12 – 6:30 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — About 1,500 protesters slowly marched from the Thompson Center to the Chicago Board of Trade on Wednesday, calling for the company that runs the financial exchange to give back millions in state tax breaks.
CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports protesters carried signs with messages including “Tax The 1 Percent” and “Stop Corporate Greed.”
Several of those protesters went into a shareholders meeting for the CME Group, which owns the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, after buying shares to get inside. They called on CME to return millions in tax breaks that state lawmakers approved after the company threatened to leave Illinois over an increase in the state’s corporate income tax.
The protesters are angry that CME’s tax bill is being cut by $85 million by 2014, under a deal approved by the governor and state lawmakers.
Protesters said the tax cuts for CME will lead to cuts in social services, such as home health care and child care.
Earlier in the day, about 200 protesters composed of senior citizens, people with disabilities and health care workers demonstrated outside the Board of Trade, blocking the main entrance. Several of them were arrested when they blocked the entrance and refused to leave.
The group had linked arms in a human chain and blocked the main entrance to the Board of Trade. Police allowed the protesters to block the street for about 15 minutes or so, but when they told protesters to leave, about 15 refused to do so, and were arrested.
Protesters say they are angry that the state has now proposed to slash $210 million in funding for programs that provide health care services to seniors and people with disabilities. They are calling for CME officials to return the money from the tax breaks approved by the state.
“Our message to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is loud and clear,” said protester Mike Ervin. “Give it back!” He led the protesters in a chant.
“We have tried everything else to resist the cuts in home health services in the State of Illinois, and in spite of that, they gave the tax break for these people at the CME, and the tax break is not justified,” said protester Jim Rhodes.
But CME officials have said, before that deal, the company was being taxed unfairly, as if all financial transactions at the Board of Trade and Mercantile Exchange were being conducted in Illinois, when many are conducted electronically from out of state.
In response to the protest, the CME Group said: “The recent Illinois tax changes were not an incentive, but rather a solution to a tax code disparity that left CME Group on unequal footing with other Illinois companies and exchanges. This necessary adjustment allows CME Group to remain competitive with other global exchanges and helps solidify Chicago’s place as the risk management capital of the world.”
The group protesting against CME was expected to join forces with the Chicago Teachers Union later Wednesday afternoon. Hundreds of teachers had gathered in Grant Park and a nearby theater to rally for a new contract, before marching to Chicago Public Schools headquarters in the Loop.