Rally Outside Cappleman's Office Protests 'War on the Poor'

By Adeshina Emmanuel and Benjamin Woodard  on March 6, 2013 6:25pm  | Updated on March 7, 2013 9:13am

UPTOWN — At least 200 protesters showed up Wednesday outside the office of Ald. James Cappleman (46th) chanting “Uptown for everyone!”

They decried the alderman’s alleged disregard for the poor and needy in his ward, criticizing his recent run-in with the Salvation Army, a tussle he said has been resolved, and blasting him for issues related to affordable housing in Uptown and the 46th Ward.

Jon Trott, who said he has lived in the neighborhood since 1977, borrowed a megaphone to chant slogans outside Cappleman's office at 4544 N. Broadway.

"I'm not willing to demonize anybody," said Trott, a leader for Jesus People USA, a Christian organization in Uptown that operates area homeless programs. "I think in his own mind he cares. He has some sort of idea that his social worker past gives him carte blanche to tell social organizations what to do."

Rogers Park activist Thomas Westgard was also there — dressed as Marie Antoinette.

“Well, the French aristocracy knows the inappropriateness of having poor people bothering the rich,” Westgard said sarcastically, explaining the symbolism in his costume. “Alderman Cappleman is clearly on the side of Marie Antoinette. ‘Let them eat cake’, in, let’s just say … Lawndale or Bronzeville, or some more appropriate place where the undesirables are… more desirable.”

Activists accused Cappleman of being "at war" with poor people. Others said Cappleman wants to push the poor out of the ward.

Cappleman was there but not available to comment. His chief of staff, Tressa Feher, disagreed with the rhetoric used by protestors. She balked at the idea that the alderman is somehow "at war" with the poor.

"I'm not exactly sure what their goal is — the alderman is doing as much as he can for some of the groups they're talking about, and I think he's being characterized unfairly," she said.

The march wasn't the most productive way to get their point across or to discuss the issues, Feher said.

Animal rights activists also joined the party, scrutinizing the alderman anew for his dealings with pigeons in the neighborhood. Cappleman has said pigeon infestations in parts of the 46th ward have discouraged businesses from coming into the area — and have created quite the poop problem.

Organizer Stavraoula Harissis said she didn’t know what would happen after the protest, but said she hoped it would lead to more people getting involved in Uptown. The Uptown resident started the Facebook page that spawned the event.

Harissis would be satisfied if she "can get half of these people to come to a meeting once a month and talk about what’s important in their neighborhood,” she said

“When you get people’s voices together and you speak in one unified voice, you can have impact. Hopefully that’s what will come out of this,” she said.

When it came to the idea that Cappleman is at war with the poor, she said, “I think that’s a really sensational way to put it.”

“I don’t see it as this person is at war with the poor. I see it as this system that we’re living in is at war with people,” she said. “It’s not a people-driven system, it’s a few people controlling everybody else.”

The protest began about 5 p.m. and marching ended about 6 p.m.

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