- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

CHICAGO (AP) - Protesters took their causes to the streets Thursday as an International Olympic Committee delegation arrived in Chicago _ their first stop among four cities vying to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

As committee members checked into the Fairmont Hotel and geared up for several days of meetings and bravado, Chicago police officers picketed City Hall, using the IOC visit to draw attention to a contract dispute, and the group “No Games Chicago” staged a downtown march and rally.

The opposition group, which believes the Games are bad for cities financially and can displace thousands of people, says money and energy directed at the Olympic movement should go toward schools, hospitals and transportation.

“The priorities in the city of Chicago, they’re putting on an Olympic games while the city is crumbling around us,” group member Bob Quellos said. “We’re being sold lies.”

Chicago is competing against Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro to host the Games. The IOC’s inspection team, which will also meet with Chicago 2016 officials, is charged with grading the city’s bid.

Activities on their agenda include visits to proposed venues along Lake Michigan where many sporting events would take place. The IOC is scheduled to make their decision in October.

Several hundred members of Quellos’ group held an early evening rally at Federal Plaza downtown, and then matched to the Aon Building, where Chicago 2016 has been meeting. About a dozen speakers, most of whom denounced Mayor Richard M. Daley, predicted the games would be a disaster for the public schools, the poor, and the city’s taxpayers.

“Mayor Daley wants to spend billions to bring world-class sprinters and jumpers here for two weeks, while no Chicago Public School has indoor track facilities,” teacher Jim Vail said. “Where are the games for us?”

Several speakers urged the creation of a tent city for the homeless on Sunday at Washington Park on the South Side, which would be the site of the main proposed Olympic stadium.

Earlier Thursday, organizers estimated about 3,000 Chicago police officers circled City Hall and chanted, objecting to recent actions in contract negotiations.

While union officials would not say they planned the protest to coincide with the IOC delegation’s arrival, the message was implied everywhere and officers participating said it helped the cause.

Several officers wore black T-shirts featuring white chalk outlines of bodies and “Chicago 2016” written underneath. Another had handcuffs in the shape of the Olympic rings. Other protesters criticized city officials; one sign read “Daley Unfair. No Games.”

The city’s police officers have worked without a contract since June 2007. Most recently, an offer that included pay raises was taken off the table, which infuriated many officers who came to the protest.

“We need to send a message that we’re frustrated with negotiations,” Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue said.

Brenda Ellerson, a 24-year veteran of the police department, said it helped that members of the IOC were in town during the protest, particularly since officers would be relied upon if officials choose Chicago.

“We’re putting our lives on the line every day,” she said. “It’s just not fair. We know the economy is bad, but we still have to pay bills.”

Daley spokesman Lance Lewis said the group has a right to protest, but referred all inquiries to Chicago police.

“We obviously honor the First Amendment right to exercise free speech,” Chicago police spokesman Roderick Drew said. “Both sides need to sit down and work on an agreement. And we would rather have the two parties sit down face to face than to target an unrelated event.”


Associated Press Writer F.N. D’Alessio contributed to this report.

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