Officials say protesters staged removal from Illinois Capitol
Activists said over 100 protesters were removed from the halls of the Illinois State Capitol Monday, but the Secretary of State’s Office said that’s not true.
The protesters were part of the Illinois Poor People’s Campaign and the Fight for $15.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is a 40-day movement going on in 35 states.
The organization said poor and disenfranchised people, moral leaders and advocates were at the Illinois Capitol to call on lawmakers to address systemic racism, poverty, immigration and voting rights.
"You cannot say that all wealthy people have moral superiority,” Illinois Poor People’s Campaign Tri-Chair Erica Nanton said. “You cannot say that all poor people have moral inferiority. We will no longer allow that to be the excuse for why we're facing discrimination and oppression and low wages."
Hundreds of McDonald's workers marched on the Illinois State Capitol, rallying for a $15 minimum wage.
"We have no benefits, we have nothing, we have nothing to fall back on,” said Mary Hood, a McDonald's employee from Chicago. “If I was hurt myself today or tomorrow and couldn't return to work what would I have to rely on? Absolutely nothing."
In a statement released after the protesters left, Fight for $15 said, “more than 100 McDonald’s cooks and cashiers were physically removed by Capitol police.”
A Fight for $15 spokeswoman said Capitol police removed 116 workers for sitting in and refusing to move.
Secretary of State Police said they allow protesters to stay in the Capitol for one hour following the adjournment of the General Assembly.
The House adjourned around 5:45 p.m., meaning when the protesters left at 4:30 p.m., they were still technically allowed to be there.
Henry Haupt, a spokesman from the Secretary of State’s Office, released the following statement in response to the groups claim that they were physically removed by the Secretary of State Police:
This is absolutely not true. No one was physically removed from the Capitol building this afternoon. The leaders of the group requested that Capitol Police walk beside them while leaving the building. Capitol Police complied but also made it clear to them that they were not being asked to leave and that they were welcome back to the Capitol Building. It appears now that they were attempting to stage for the media a physical removal — something that did not happen.
All sides agreed that no formal charges or citations were issued during the rally.
Terrence Wise, Poor People’s Campaign Tri-Chair, released the following statement Monday:
“Workers in the Fight for $15 came to the Illinois statehouse today to demand that lawmakers take immediate action to confront systemic racism, and we were ready to commit nonviolent civil disobedience. We sat outside the governor’s office and the Senate for two hours, and our protest ended when Capitol police escorted us out of the building.”
Fight for $15’s full release sent out Monday can be found below:
More than 100 McDonald’s cooks and cashiers were physically removed by Capitol police from a protest at the Illinois statehouse Monday – days ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting – as the Fight for $15 joined forces with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival in nonviolent direct action to highlight the burger giant’s role in locking workers of color in poverty.
Carrying signs reading “Black Workers Matter, McDonald’s” and chanting “We Believe That We Will Win,” workers in McDonald’s uniforms were carried away along with activists, clergy and community leaders following a two-hour sit-in at the governor’s office and the legislative chambers. The nonviolent direct action was part of a wave of Poor People’s Campaign protests against systemic racism that hit 35 state capitals and Washington, D.C., Monday.
“McDonald’s does everything it can to block people of color like me from getting higher wages,” said Ashley Bruce, a McDonald’s worker from Chicago who is paid $11 an hour and was arrested Monday. “I help McDonald’s make billions every year, but I’m paid so little I need government assistance to make ends meet. I’m going to continue doing whatever it takes until McDonald’s listens to our demand for $15 an hour and union rights.”
Earlier Monday, a delegation of McDonald’s workers from across the country converged in Chicago and delivered a letter to the company’s new downtown headquarters serving notice of their plans to join the Poor People’s Campaign nonviolent direct action at the state capital Monday afternoon. The letter detailed how McDonald’s perpetuates systemic racism in the U.S. by blocking raises for people of color.
“We are calling on McDonald’s – the world’s second-biggest private employer – to use its massive power and wealth to lift up people of color and our communities rather than keep us locked in poverty,” the letter reads.
The letter delivered to McDonald’s corporate offices documents the company’s aggressive lobbying against minimum wage increases, which disproportionately harms Black and Latino workers who are overrepresented in low-wage jobs. McDonald’s spends tens of millions on local, state and federal lobbying, and one of its top-ranking executives sits on the board of the National Restaurant Association, which fought to reverse a minimum wage increase passed in New York State, and is advocating to block a minimum wage increase passed by Black legislators in Birmingham, Alabama
The letter also outlines McDonald’s extensive record of harassment and discrimination against Black and Latino workers who have spoken up to challenge the company’s low wages. The letter cites McDonald’s illegal intimidation, surveillance and termination of workers who have gone on strike with the Fight for $15 over the past five years, and highlights the company’s multiyear collusion with the Memphis police department to stifle organizing by workers of color in the city demanding $15 an hour and union rights.
The protest Monday marks the latest in an ongoing collaboration between the Fight for $15 and the Poor People’s Campaign. On April 4 – the 50th anniversary of the historic Memphis sanitation strike – fast-food workers announced they will join six weeks of nonviolent civil disobedience with the Poor People’s Campaign that began May 14 and will culminate in a massive march on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on June 23. The unprecedented season of nonviolent direct action will include a week of protests beginning June 11 focused on raising wages and restoring the power of unions to fight inequality.
“We cannot end systemic racism in this country without holding companies like McDonald’s accountable for trapping people of color in poverty,” said the Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. “The fast-food workers who are risking their livelihoods and demanding $15 an hour and the right to a union are fighting for a better future for all of us, and together our two movements will help lift people of all races out of poverty.”
The Fight for $15 has built deep ties with civil rights groups and leaders over the past five years. U.S. Rep. John Lewis joined Atlanta fast-food workers on a strike line in August 2013, encouraging them to, “Keep walking, keep marching, keep talking, keep pushing.” In the summer of 2014, the NAACP passed a resolution backing the Fight for $15; in the winter of 2015 Memphis sanitation workers who participated in the 1968 strike implored a gathering of fast-food workers at Dr. King’s church in Atlanta to keep fighting for $15 and union rights; and faith leaders of all stripes have echoed the workers’ moral argument for dignity on the job.
"Working Americans, no matter where we come from or what our color, are sick and tired of corporations like McDonald’s using their power to try to keep wages as low as possible,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, who joined McDonald’s workers in the Fight for $15 at the Illinois statehouse. “It's time for McDonald's to stop looking at its cooks and cashiers as a cost to be minimized. McDonald’s can and should create the kind of jobs that pay people enough to raise their families and move our country forward together."
Workers have developed deep ties with the Movement for Black Lives and marched alongside activists calling for racial justice from Ferguson, Mo. to Baton Rouge, La, to Milwaukee, Wisc. In April 2017, workers in the Fight for $15 joined together with the Movement for Black Lives for a wave of “Fight Racism, Raise Pay” protests across the country. Members of the Memphis chapter of the Fight for $15 participated in the movement that led to the removal of Confederate monuments in the city late last year.