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15 Day 'March To Springfield' Ends In Arrests

Brian Mackey
activists sing and chant while arrests are made

Yesterday activists who had been marching from Chicago since May 15th arrived in Springfield. Some of them represented groups like Fair Economy Illinois and The People's Lobby

Earlier in the day marchers convened outside the Old State Capitol. Speakers included 91 year old veteran Dr. Alfred Klinger. "People are being held hostage by corporations, millionaires and billionaires ... these freeloaders are not paying their fair share," he told the crowd. It's estimated about 400 marchers participated Tuesday. It's been 700 days without a state budget.

As legislators debated into the late evening hours, some chanting activists were removed from the House Gallery by security. Others chanted and convened outside of the Governor's Office. Some chained themselves together with ties and a number were arrested.  Anna Sekiguchi was one them.  At 18 years old, she is one of the youngest to make the trek across the state.  She says it was the lack of mental health services during her freshman year at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign that helped inspire her activism.

During the weeks long march, listening groups were held in various communities.  Marchers are lobbying for their People and Planet First Budget Proposal, which calls for things like fully funding public education. Some of the details of the proposal, like providing free tuition to state universities for residents, and providing universal healthcare in the state, are what many would consider tall orders. The group says the state could increase revenue by enacting a graduated income tax, closing corporate loopholes and adding taxes for the buying and selling of financial assets such as stocks and bonds.

While the goals may be out of reach , especially given that the state is struggling to agree on a basic operating budget, Sekiguchi says she has been inspired by this process and is looking at switching her major to political science. "I plan to stay active (in politics) as long as possible ... because I think it's the best way to make change." As the budget process languishes on, one thing seems clear, Illinois' fiscal crisis has urged many residents to start paying more attention to what happens under the Capitol dome - some are even willing to get arrested for their convictions. 

Rachel Otwell of the Illinois Times is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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