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Protest permits issued under existing ordinance

The city is granting permits for protests at the upcoming NATO/G8 summits under the existing parade ordinance, making it hard to follow Mayor Emanuel’s argument that a new ordinance is needed in time for the summits.

Last month Emanuel introduced revisions to the parade ordinance – adding an array of bureacratic requirements for protest organizers — as part of a package of changes to the municipal code he said was “appropriate for a unique event.” He later said he “made a mistake” saying the changes would be temporary.

The City Council is set to begin considering the proposals next week.

But on Thursday the city approved the application for a parade route from the Coalition Against NATO and G8 for a march from Daley plaza to a rally at 23rd and Indiana, near the summit site at McCormick Place (with the proviso that the Secret Service could override the approval).

‘Current ordinance adequate’

“The issuance of this permit shows that the current ordinances, while not perfect, are more than adequate for large public events in our city, and that the Mayor should rescind his proposed anti-protester ordinances,” said Andy Thayer of CANG8.

The proposed ordinance adds requirements that protest organizers list all sound equipment, signs, banners and other “attention-getting devices,” and all contingents planning to participate — things Thayer says no protest organizer could possibly predict.

It could just mean more paperwork – or it could provide additional grounds to harrass organizers (and the top fine for violating the ordinance is doubled to $2,000).

Thayer says that’s quite common. He’s been charged with petty violations of the parade ordinance many times. And last month the city dropped charges of parade ordinance violations against the person who applied for a permit for an October protest against the war in Afghanistan.

Pat Hunt was charged with two violations of the ordinance when a banner was taped to a statue and police decided a hand-pushed cart with sound equipment was a vehicle.

No clear reason

“I don’t see a clear reason why the city needs to enact these changes,” said Ben Meyer of the National Lawyers Guild, who has represented protestors. “I don’t see how it helps the police or the city do their jobs. It won’t help the police direct traffic or maintain public safety.”

Instead, he says, “the city is trying to make it more difficult for people to engage in First Amendment activities by making it more onerous for people to get permits.”

CANG8 also criticized the city’s “escape hatch” giving veto power to the Secret Service.

“The feds have had at least six months to study the security issues surrounding the summits,” said Thayer. “In the event that they attempt to make large sections of the city inaccessible, we demand that the city insist that the protests proceed unimpeded and unmolested.”

Proximity to the summit site is “a very important issue because these people are trying to convey a message to the delegates,” Meyer said. “They’re trying to tell the delegates they disagree with their policies, and if the intended audience can’t hear the message, the message isn’t being conveyed.”

Thayer’s analysis of the new parade ordinance, with copies of the old and new ordinances, is at Chicago Indymedia.

Occupy Chicago has announced Operation Roll Call, a citywide effort to “demand that your aldermen defend your rights.” Occupy the Northwest Side has met with aldermen on the issue.

Occupy Rogers Park and Occupy the South Side issued a letter to aldermen pointing out that, far beyond the NATO/G8 protest, the new restrictions apply citywide –and could impact the ability of communities of color to protest cuts in city jobs and services which affect them disproportionately, Chicago Muckraker reports.

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Category: civil liberties

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