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Protesters in Chicago call for 'Robin Hood' tax

Nurses and thousands of other marchers demand a 'Robin Hood' tax on financial transactions. More protests are expected ahead of a NATO summit in Chicago.

By Jim Suhr and Ryan J. FoleyAssociated Press / May 18, 2012

A protester marches through the streets as others hold a banner during a demonstration in Chicago May 18, 2012, ahead of a NATO meeting. One of protesters' main themes was a demand for a 'Robin Hood' tax, which would impose a small tax on financial transactions.

Jim Young/Reuters

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CHICAGO

Thousands of nurses and other protesters gathered Friday at a downtown Chicago plaza for a noisy but largely peaceful demonstration demanding a "Robin Hood" tax on banks' financial transactions, before a smaller but more raucous crowd broke away and began marching through city streets.

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The marchers chanted slogans and taunted police, who followed on bicycles and on foot. Police horses blocked some intersections as the breakaway groups wound through the city.

Friday's demonstrations were the largest yet ahead of a two-day NATO summit that is expected to draw even larger protests.

Members of National Nurses United, the nation's largest nurses union, were joined by members of the Occupy movement, unions and veterans. City officials have said the event could draw more than 5,000 because of a performance by former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, an activist who has played at many Occupy events. Early crowds did not appear to be that large.

The nurses and their supporters dressed in red shirts and wore green felt Robin Hood caps with red feathers. There were few problems at the rally, though police arrested at least one demonstrator as the gathering broke up.

About a dozen police officers, some wearing riot gear, surrounded the protester, who was dressed entirely in black. Police handcuffed him and walked him away from the rally.

Deb Holmes, a nurse, said she was advocating for the tax but also protesting proposals to cut back nurses' pensions.

"We've worked 30 years for them and don't want to get rid of them," she said.

The rally — which originally was scheduled to coincide with the start of the G-8 economic summit before that summit was moved from Chicago to Camp David — drew a broad spectrum of causes, from anti-war activists to Occupy protesters and Cathy Christeller's nonprofit Chicago Women's AIDS project.

Christeller, the agency's executive director, said there is common ground among all protesters, even against the backdrop of the NATO summit.

"The whole ... idea we should slash the (social) safety net instituted here and in Europe — It's a disaster," she said. "It ignores the source of the economic downturn, and it's making people suffer unnecessarily. This brings us together,"

Mary O'Sullivan and Chris Fogarty held the same signs that they carry every week. The retired couple have been protesting together for more than a decade, and Mary has carried the same sign for years, taping over "Honk to indict Bush" to read "Honk to indict banksters."

She said NATO "leaves rubble in their wake."

Ben Meyer, a lawyer who was observing the protest for the National Lawyers' Guild, denounced what he called an excessive police presence at the rally, which included dozens of officers milling through the crowd and lining the perimeter, some of whom were videotaping the rally.

"It's frustrating the state needs to come out and show this much force for a nurses' rally," he said. "They have everyone from the superintendent on down here. It's just ridiculous."

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