Protesters shut down Monroe Street downtown to protest the ALEX meeting. (Credit: Steve Miller)

Protesters shut down Monroe Street downtown to protest the ALEX meeting. (Credit: Steve Miller)

CHICAGO (CBS) — About 500 demonstrators shut down Monroe Street in front of the Palmer House Hilton Thursday afternoon, protesting the American Legislative Exchange Council meeting at the hotel.

The protesters say the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, is right-wing and wants to undo what protesters say is right about big government.

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Watching the demonstration: ALEC member Jeff Melcher, who’s a Kansas state senator, says big government actually works against people, including the demonstrators.

“Historically it’s shown to work to their detriment. Whenever we free up the marketplace, the market seems to settle a lot of problems on its own.”

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Out front demonstrating against ALEC: the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

“Big government gave us rights that state’s rights never gave us. Big government gave us equal protection for women, for workers. For public education, for health care, for public roads. And so the idea that little government makes us better and big government makes us worse off is not really true.”

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A band plays outside the Palmer House as part of a protest against ALEC. (Credit: Steve Miller)

A band plays outside the Palmer House as part of a protest against ALEC. (Credit: Steve Miller)

This ALEC conference in Chicago marks 40 years of the organization.