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Activists Seeking to Capitalize on 'Occupy' Protests

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Kane Farabaugh

As anti-Wall Street demonstrations continue in New York City, the growing furor over bank bailouts and the weak economy continues to spread throughout the United States.  In Boston, dozens of protestors were arrested for refusing to leave Dewey Park.

In Washington DC, protestors were hoping to have their permit renewed to allow demonstrations to continue.  The "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations there have given a boost to several other local campaigns looking to draw national attention to their causes.

In the shadow of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, The Chicago Board of Trade, and Bank of America's Chicago office building, there is a growing chorus of disaffected voices.

The Occupy Chicago protest, loosely connected to the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City, is now several weeks old. And as each day passes, more people join the street demonstrations.

"It's been really interesting timing to have the Occupy Wall Street happen and also the stuff across the country happen as well. There's a national platform to talk about the things we've been organizing for years," noted Amisha Patel, Executive Director of the Grassroots Collaborative.

Even though the Occupy Wall Street protests have spread throughout major U.S. cities, Patel says discord among those living in Chicago is not new.

"For many months, actually, there have been many organizations across the city who have been coming together to talk about how do we take back Chicago - how do we talk about schools, jobs and housing, things our members and community folks are really dealing with on an everyday basis?" Patel added.

Beginning with massive protests outside meetings of the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Futures Industry Association, Patel's group, augmented by activists with Occupy Chicago, are staging peaceful rallies and protests throughout the week, with a different theme each day.

On this day's protest, several hundred people gathered outside the offices of the Chicago Association of Realtors, to show their anger at recent foreclosure practices and mortgage lending.

"We all have our individual gripes, but they center around several major themes, and I think the biggest one is political accountability," said Roy Ahlgren, a military veteran and retiree.  He says the protests in Chicago, only now gathering momentum, should have taken off months ago.

"I think we should have had this outrage on the streets a long time ago. I think it's long overdue, and I think it's only going to grow," Ahlgren added.

Ahlgren may get his wish. Organizers say these protests are setting the stage for much larger demonstrations in May, when tens of thousands of people will descend on Chicago as it hosts both the G8 Summit and NATO meetings simultaneously.

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