CHICAGO (Reuters) - Around 500 demonstrators gathered outside the home of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Saturday to protest the recent closure of mental health clinics as part of a series of rallies and marches timed to coincide with a NATO summit here.
But the protest was much smaller than one attended by an estimated 2,500 people at a downtown plaza on Friday. The biggest rally is expected to be on Sunday near the convention centre where world leaders will gather.
The protest on Saturday began as a group of around 50 people, including some former patients of six city-run mental health clinics that closed at the end of April to save $2.3 million as part of a drive to eliminate the city’s $650 million budget deficit.
“He (Emanuel) hasn’t talked to us once, not once since he’s been in office,” said Marti Luckett, 60, a patient at one of the shuttered clinics who is bipolar and suffers from depression. “We want him to show up.”
“I think President (Barack) Obama should be calling Rahm Emanuel and say ‘shame on you,'” added Luckett, a petite woman with reddish hair.
Chicago has closed half of the dozen city-run mental health clinics because of budget cuts. The city says patients should be able to receive care at the remaining clinics or some run by outside groups.
“The administration is committed to promoting the health and wellness of Chicagoans in every neighbourhood,” a spokeswoman for the city said.
Small groups of protesters, some carrying signs that read “food not bombs” or “seize the peace,” accompanied former patients of the clinics dressed in green hospital smocks going door to door to talk to residents in Emanuel’s neighbourhood. The former patients wore signs saying “welfare not warfare.”
At the mayor’s home protesters reached were greeted by around 30 police officers who were in a relaxed mood but told protesters to keep moving.
Less than a block from the mayor’s home Colette Kelsey, 39, and Doug Anderson, 43, were among the few residents who opened their doors to protesters.
“We can all empathize, but when you have limited funds what can you do?” Kelsey said of the clinic closures.
The protest on Saturday followed the announcement that three men arrested earlier in the week at a house in the Chicago area had been charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism. Prosecutors said the three self-described anarchists were planning to attack Obama’s campaign headquarters and Emanuel’s home.
Chicago police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said two likely protesters were arrested for trespassing at a downtown museum early on Saturday morning, but did not have additional details.
Writing By Nick Carey; Additional reporting by James Kelleher; Editing by Dan Burns and Vicki Allen