Web Extra!

At 2:21 this afternoon, a bus pulled away from Bethel New Life, a faith-based community center on the West Side of Chicago, bound for Washington. D.C. The Spirit Tours motor coach will cross four states on its 704-mile, 12-hour drive to Capitol Hill, where a hard-won seat at the national table awaits its passengers, the Coalition to Save Community Banking.

“Lord, give us open minds and open ears,” Mildred Wiley said as she led the 42 passengers in prayer.

Wiley, who’s senior director of community services at Bethel New Life, the departure point, is one of the 37 coalition members on board to cheer on River Forest resident Mike Kelly as he testifies Thursday morning before a House subcommittee investigating the takeover of his nine banks, the largest of which locally was Park National. The hearing was scheduled by the office of U.S. Rep., Luis Gutiérrez, whom this grassroots group of Austin and Oak Park activists has been pursuing since the takeover on Oct. 30.

“You can’t just do anything to the West Side. We fight back,” coalition member Rev. Marshall Hatch said at a town hall meeting about the hearing Tuesday night.

Stay with Wednesday Journal and Austin Weekly News for coverage from the road of this historic trip.

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