Chicago Lawmaker Says the State Movement for Economic Justice is Free Speech
SPRINGFIELD–(ENEWSPF)–November 8, 2011. Rep. La Shawn K. Ford today filed a Resolution in the Illinois House of Representatives expressing support for “the peaceful exercise of First Amendment Rights” by people across the state engaged in the Occupy protests. The resolution reaffirms what the First Amendment of the United States Constitution explicitly protects: “freedom of speech” and “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
“This is a statewide movement,” Ford said, “with people of all ages, races, and walks of life, from teachers to veterans, protesting the economic crisis that has destroyed families and whole communities.”
Ford agrees with housing advocates who say that banks and brokerage firms have to be held accountable for putting in jeopardy the lives and fortunes of millions of Illinoisans. He said that legislators must take stronger measures to keep people in their homes.
“Lawmakers in D.C. and in Springfield must deliver relief to families in Illinois just as they did to Wall Street,” he told the Chicago protesters. “The Occupy movement will help legislators stay focussed on helping families who are losing their homes. This is a new sit-in movement.”
First elected to his 8th district seat in 2006, Ford represents several West Side neighborhoods hit hard by the economic collapse, including Austin, Berwyn, Riverside, Forest Park, Oak Park, LaGrange and Brookfield. He said that he and his House colleagues have seen their communities decimated by a high number of foreclosures, evictions and underwater mortgages.
The preamble to the Resolution speaks directly to these issues. The foreclosure rate in Illinois is the 9th worst in the country, and the rate in Cook County is worse still, at 1 of every 357 units. Nearly 45% of mortgages in Chicago are currently underwater.
“The Occupy protestors in Illinois have been peaceful, thoughtful and respectful,” Ford continued, “They deserve our recognition.”
“I live in a relatively affluent northern suburb,” said Stephen F. Eisenman, a professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, and a regular Occupy protester, “and even here the economic toll has been bad. People can’t sell their houses and the banks won’t refinance them — even people with jobs are afraid to spend and insecurity is growing.”
The resolution recognizes the harm suffered by the people of Illinois and their right to protest.
Ford previously (on October 26, 2011) asked the House assembly for a moment of silence to recognize the “march for justice” taking place by Occupy Chicago protestors. Ford’s request brought a rebuke from Representative Rosemary Mulligan (R) who submitted that the Occupy people “are homeless people that have nowhere else to go” and “some of them are very strange people” and that they should not be honored.
Occupy Chicago held a march on October 26 on behalf of Scott Oleson, a Iraq war veteran seriously injured by police while peacefully protesting at Occupy Oakland.
A vote is expected this week. It will have to be voted on before the conclusion of the veto session on Thursday, November 10.
The resolution text follows:
Illinois House Resolution Concerning the Illinois Occupy Movements
WHEREAS, The people of Illinois are suffering from an ongoing economic crisis that threatens their health, wealth and security, and
WHEREAS, Occupy movements in Illinois are supported by people of all trades and occupations, from school teachers to military veterans, who are stirred to protest economic injustice by the examples of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City and the numerous other Occupy protests across the country; and
WHEREAS, In Illinois, the unemployment rate is 10% (numbering more than 660,000 people), the poverty rate is more than 14% (1.8 million people), and the rate of people living in extreme poverty (income less than $11,000 for a family of four) is nearly 7% (680,000 people); and
WHEREAS, The average after-tax household income of the top 1% of the United States population grew by 275% between 1979 and 2007, and the average after-tax household income of the lowest 20% of the United States population grew by just 18% in that same period; and
WHEREAS, The top 1% of income earners control 40% of the wealth in the United States; and
WHEREAS, The foreclosure rate in Illinois last month was the ninth worst in the country (1 of every 463 units), the rate in Cook County was even worse (1 of 357 units), and nearly 45% of the mortgage loans on Chicago homes are “underwater”, that is, the amount of the home mortgage loan exceeds the value of the home; and
WHEREAS, The cost of the foreclosure crisis to Illinois taxpayers in 2012 is expected to reach $12 billion, blighting whole communities with decreased police and fire protection, higher crime rates, less access to health care, poorer schools, deteriorated infrastructure, diminished recreation services, reduced library services, and park closures or reduced park hours; and
WHEREAS, People of all ages (from young adults to seniors) and backgrounds, individuals from all Chicago neighborhoods, and persons who live in the suburbs, downstate cities, and rural areas are lawfully protesting the failures of Wall Street, the subsequent economic crisis, and the failure to address the needs of 99% of the population; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NINETY-SEVENTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that we recognize the hardships experienced by the people of Illinois as a result of the economic injustices and we stand in support of the continued peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights by Occupy protesters.