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City yanks protest permit already granted to nurses union

0501-08 Federal Plaza, S. Dearborn, Chicago - Musician Tom Morello sings a workers' rights-themed song during the annual immigration rally at Federal Plaza Thursday in Chicago. - JOHN J. KIM ~ SUN-TIMES

Performing in a band with a name like Rage Against The Machine, Tom Morello knows how to pick a fight.

Now the guitarist is waging a war of words against Rahm Emanuel, accusing the Mayor of being “afraid” of NATO protesters.

Morello – raised in suburban Libertyville – spoke out against Emanuel’s administration hours after the city yanked the permit for a protest where Morello was due to perform at on May 18.

Officials agreed three months ago that National Nurses United could organize a downtown march through the Loop from the Sheraton hotel to Daley Plaza – but Tuesday demanded major changes after learning that Morello will be playing a free show at the event.

“Mayor Emanuel is afraid of me, afraid of nurses and afraid of the truth,” Morello said. “It doesn’t come as a surprise – I’ve been involved in protests, marches and rallies before and this kind of harassment from officials is par for the course.”

The march is due to be the first major march of the NATO summit weekend, 48 hours before the summit begins. But officials insist that traffic and public safety concerns mean it must be redirected to the Petrillo Band Shell in Grant Park instead of Daley Plaza.

In a letter sent to the union, Department of Transportation assistant commissioner Mike Simon wrote that the union hadn’t mentioned Morello’s involvement in the rally when it applied for a parade permit.

Morello is a “popular, nationally known musician” who regularly attracts crowds far larger than the 1,000 protesters the union said it expected, Simon wrote.

Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew said that the event has been widely publicized, making it even more likely that a larger crowd would show up.

But the union and Morello think the real reason they have been given until Thursday to accept the revised route is that the march will be demanding a “Robin Hood Tax” on Wall Street.

“It’s ridiculous,” said union executive director RoseAnn DeMoro. “If nurses are a national security threat, the U.S. is in real trouble.”

DeMoro said the union plans to file a federal lawsuit against the city to have the original route reinstated.

And Morello said he’ll play a concert for the crowd “even if I have to go to the middle of Lake Michigan to do it.”

“These kind of tactics always backfire,” he said.