CHICAGO — Mounting anger over joblessness and income inequality snarled rush-hour traffic in downtown Chicago as thousands of teachers, religious leaders, union workers and other protesters marched on Monday.
Chanting "We are the 99 percent" and "Tax, tax, tax the rich," demonstrators marched on Michigan Avenue and gathered outside the Chicago Art Institute where a U.S. futures industry trade group was holding an evening cocktail reception.
Others marched outside a luxury hotel nearby where the American Mortgage Bankers Association was holding a meeting downtown, attracting a separate band of protesters.
Five separate "feeder marches" — which converged into one giant march up Michigan Ave — were inspired by, but not formally affiliated with, the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York last month.
Police estimated 3,000 protesters at the events organized by the "Stand Up Chicago" coalition, with the stated goal of reclaiming "our jobs, our homes and our schools," according to the group's website.
"We really want to highlight the role the financial industry has played," said Adam Kader of Arise Chicago, an interfaith workers' rights group and part of the coalition.Story: $1.9 million in overtime to police NY 'occupy' protest
"They're here in our backyard, so this is the time to send a message about how we're really hurting," he added, saying the demonstration would focus on foreclosures, unemployment and lack of municipal funding for key services.
Police arrested 26 demonstrators, many wearing Chicago Teachers Union T-shirts, who linked arms and sat down in Monroe Street as they chanted "Save our schools, save our homes!" They were ticketed and released. Another demonstrator was arrested and faces a charge of battery on a police officer.
Nearby, a crowd chanted "Shame on you!" to members of the Futures Industry Association who peered out from a balcony of the Chicago Art Institute, where they attended a party.
Several protesters paid $2,245 per badge to gain admission to the Mortgage Bankers Association event, organizers said.
More on Occupy Wall Street protests
One protester, dressed in a suit, got to a microphone during a panel discussion on Monday and asked Michael Heid, president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, a top national mortgage lender: "How do you sleep at night?"
The man asked Heid how could he even visit the Chicago area since so many been affected by foreclosures locally.
Heid answered that he felt like he was before a congressional panel with such a tough line of questioning.
Mortgage Bankers Association CEO David Stevens had advised conference attendees in the morning not to "engage or confront" the protesters, and to use pedestrian tunnels and other means to leave the building if needed.Story: Chicago protesters seek exchange tax to fund jobs
"We all recognize that our industry faces a trust deficit with policymakers and the public, and that people in our industry contributed to the events that led to the financial crisis," the Association said in a statement.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, speaking at an evening event on social trends, said the anti-Wall Street protests were tied to a lack of attention on jobs by Washington politicians.
"It grows out of the anger people feel. People want focus and attention and passion on jobs," Reed said.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, at the same event, said: "There is a major economic restructuring going on where the middle class in this country are feeling an angst they haven't felt."
Arriving by the busload
On the streets, despite mostly orderly marching and chants, anger was the common element among the crowds of protesters.
"I've got loads of loans," said Wedad Yassin, a student at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, who was among the protesters. She said she wanted a fairer tax system that "stops putting our taxes toward war" and invests in education.
"Obama talks about there's going to be some answers to the education problem, but I don't see it," Yassin said.Story: Seasoned activists critique Wall Street protests
Protesters arrived by the busload, including many Chicago Teachers Union members who climbed off yellow school buses that parked near police barricades.
Andromachi Koumbis, an elementary school teacher, said she showed up because she was unhappy with what she termed "tampering" with the Chicago teachers labor contract that will add hours to the school day. "I don't mind longer hours if it's done right," she said. "It's funny that they say kids first, and then they bail out big corporations."
Cary Bunnett, a 52-year-old Chicago electrician, was at the Mortgage Bankers protest and she claimed Bank of America had mishandled her mortgage modification on her $2,500-a-month home loan. She said she was laid off due to a lack of building activity, which cut her income in half.
"You don't see any cranes around downtown Chicago anymore," she said. "There's no work for me. What am I supposed to do?"
"I've stopped making my house payment because I just can't do it anymore, but they won't give me the modification they say I qualify for," Bunnett said.
The protests included lighter moments. At the corner of Monroe Street and Michigan Ave, horseback-mounted police smiled when demonstrators chanted "Police need a raise!"
More demonstrations were planned for the next three days.
Roderick Drew, spokesman for the city's law department, said protesters had worked with police, who aimed to allow free speech without impairing people's ability to get around.
Chicago has already several weeks of daily protests outside the Federal Reserve Bank by "Occupy Chicago," an echo of the larger Wall Street protests. Occupy Chicago demonstrators participated with the Stand Up Chicago marchers on Monday.
In developments elsewhere:
- In Washington, anti-war and anti-corporate greed protesters accepted an offer by U.S. Park Police in the nation's capital to extend by four months their permit to demonstrate.
The protesters have spent the past four days camping in the Washington's Freedom Plaza near the White House. October 2011/Stop the Machine has scheduled other marches and rallies throughout the week. Its permit had been set to expire on Monday and organizers said they had planned to stay put anyway.
- Tension mounted between protesters and police on Monday night after Occupy Boston members expanded their footprint in downtown Boston, then said they were being pressed by police to backtrack. A few hundred police were on the scene, and protesters said authorities had given participants at the rally an ultimatum to return to their original encampment or be moved along. Protesters' tents have been set up in Dewey Square Park in downtown Boston all month, but on Monday expanded to a larger section of the nearby Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. Many linked arms Monday evening in a show of solidarity on their expanded turf.
- An Occupy San Diego protest continued Monday despite the apparent suicide of a man who jumped from the eighth floor of a parking garage next to the plaza where hundreds of protesters have camped for days. The man did not appear to be affiliated with the group protest against corporate greed, police said.
- In Portland, Ore., activists Monday moved back into Chapman Square, behind City Hall, where they said they would stay indefinitely. A Portland police spokesman said the city would allow them to stay for the time being."
- About 75 protesters marched outside — and a few into — an Anaheim, Calif., bank and promised to march on more Orange County banks in coming weeks. The group, led by the Orange County Labor Federation, got support from Anaheim Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, who delivered a fiery speech to the protesters outside a Chase Bank near downtown.
"This is the patriotic thing to be doing," Galloway said. "'Made in America' used to mean something. But now, jobs are being shifted overseas and there's not enough respect for the workers here. They are struggling and frustrated. ...Those voices need to be heard in Washington, D.C."
Reuters, The Associated Press and NBC News contributed to this report.