About 200 activists gathered in Grant Park late this morning to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, a proposed U.S. trade deal with eight countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Labor Day rally was expected to precede a march to the Hilton Chicago, where negotiations are set begin this week.
The protestors said they wanted to raise awareness of the pact's potential effects on jobs and the environment.
"We're here to demand jobs," said Lorraine Ashby, 66, a retired state worker from Chicago's Southeast Side. "We make it harder for people who run small businesses to stay here, the people who really create jobs. We're knifing them in the back."
This week's negotiations mark the eighth round of TPP talks, which will lead up to a summit meeting of the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in November in Hawaii. No deal is expected at this week's summit, which runs through Sept. 15 at the Hilton Chicago.
But it's expected that the leaders of the nine TPP countries -- Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam and the United States -- might sign off on the "broad outlines" of a final agreement in November, so substantial progress could be made in Chicago.
The protestors planned to deliver 10,000 postcards to negotiators to call for strong labor and environmental provisions in the pact. They also want language added to ensure "respect for family farms" and the ability of poor people to have access to affordable life-saving medicine.
Mainstream U.S. farm and business groups support the agreement, which they see as key to boosting U.S. exports and keeping a check on China's growing might in the region.
Reuters contributed.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times