Chicago City Council Passes Rahm Emanuel's Anti-Protest Ordinances
By: Kevin Gosztola
January 18, 2012 5:19 pm

Two ordinances drawn up for controlling protests and
maintaining security in the city of Chicago during
upcoming NATO/G8 meetings passed through the Chicago
City Council today.

The ordinances, which organizers from Occupy Chicago and
the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 (CANG8) call "sit down
and shut up" ordinances, were proposed by Mayor Rahm
Emanuel and were met with some opposition that led to
revisions. But today they passed with only a handful of
aldermen voting against the ordinances.

A joint statement released by Occupy Chicago and CANG8

    At 12:30 today, Rahm Emanuel officiated over the
    death of the Bill of Rights in the City Council

    Ordinances designed to severely restrict First
    Amendment rights of speech and assembly were
    presented on December 14th.  The stated target was
    to prepare to repress protestors during the summits
    of NATO and the G8.

    At first, aldermen and the media all agreed that no
    one would oppose Emanuel on this.

    In response to mayor's attack on civil liberties,
    the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda
    (CANG8) joined together with Occupy Chicago and
    several unions to unite our efforts to defend of
    civil liberties in Chicago.  By last week, aldermen
    had felt so much pressure from constituents that
    they had to speak out.

    Emanuel then moved to withdraw first one, and then
    another, of the most criticized pieces.  Protests
    continued to grow; Emanuel retreated further; the
    protests mounted, and he retreated even further.

    Finally, a version was reached that the council
    opposition could vote for, hoping that the movement
    would not condemn them.  The final version is still
    a significant attack on democratic rights; its
    passage is a defeat for our movement.

    The mayor has not achieved his true objective,
    though.  Emanuel looks at the new Chicago he has
    inherited, with protestors in so many places, and he
    wants to put the genie back in the bottle.  It's not

    We have the right to protest against war, austerity,
    and inequality.  Mayor Emanuel, you'll see us in the
    streets of Chicago:  our streets.

Firedoglake and The Dissenter have been covering the
ordinances since Emanuel first indicated on December 14
that he would push for the passage of the ordinances. As
mentioned, the ordinances were revised but they are
still an attack on those who would dare to exercise
their First Amendment rights in the city of Chicago.
Worst of all, they are permanent changes and do not
expire after the NATO/G8 meetings in May.

That is right-Emanuel is using the NATO/G8 meetings as a
pretense to force suppressive measures that chip away at
Chicagoans' civil liberties upon the people of Chicago.

Andy Thayer of CANG8 describes the worst aspects of the
ordinances that just passed:

    The minimum fine for violation of the City's parade
    permit ordinance would jump four-fold, from $50 to
    $200." The maximum penalty would stay at $1000
    and/or 10 days in jail Ahead of demonstrations,
    "organizers would be required to provide the City
    with a list of all signs, banners, sound equipment
    or "attention-getting devices" that require more
    than one person to carry them," creating "a license
    for the city to `ding' organizers with absurd
    fines." No-bid contracts for NATO/G8 remains intact
    Provision allowing "deputizing of `law enforcement'"
    is also still in the ordinance. This does not simply
    include the DEA, the FBI and the Illinois State
    Police but also "other law enforcement agencies as
    determined by the superintendent of police to be
    necessary for the fulfillment of law enforcement
    functions." Thayer points out this could mean rent-
    a-cops, Blackwater, etc. All downtown protest
    marches would be required to get $1 million
    insurance coverage to "indemnify the city against
    any additional or uncovered third party claims
    against the city arising out of or caused by the
    parade." They would have to "agree to reimburse the
    city for any damage to the public way or city
    property arising out of or caused by the parade."

Thayer points out this could mean someone who is not
associated with an organization could "crash" the event
and cause property damage. The City would then insist
organizers pick up the tab.

Additionally, on the issue of registering signs ahead of
time, Thayer notes the city has been backpedaling but in
the end they really just want to mislead everyone who
thinks this is utterly ridiculous:

    The City's grand concession is that its earlier
    proposal demanded that all signs, banners, etc. be
    registered. This is now replaced by a requirement
    that "only" those such signs, etc. that require two
    or more people to carry them be registered. A
    mayoral representative, Michelle T. Boom, the
    Commissioner of the Department of Cultural affairs
    and Special Events, tried to soft-pedal this
    provision by implying that there would be no penalty
    for violation of it. But if that's so, why include
    it in the ordinance at all?

Despite revisions, the ACLU argues they are not
satisfactory enough. Of particular concern to the ACLU
is not the provisions restricting demonstrations but
rather the power it grants the city to expand
surveillance in Chicago:

    .[The proposals continue to contain an ominous
    provision - the ability of the Mayor to purchase and
    deploy powerful surveillance cameras across the City
    without any approval or any oversight. Nearly a year
    ago, the ACLU of Illinois released a report noting
    that Chicago's surveillance camera system - widely
    recognized as the most expansive and most integrated
    system in the nation - acts without any public
    regulation to protect individual privacy. The ACLU
    called on the City to put a hold on deploying new
    cameras until the City Council could adopt
    regulations that require reasonable suspicion before
    the cameras' most powerful technologies (zoom,
    tracking and facial recognition) are used. The ACLU
    report also called for the City Council to adopt a
    specific policy on the retention and dissemination
    of images captured by the cameras.

Occupy Chicago was there to protest the City Council
vote on the ordinances, but many of them were not
allowed into the chamber. Martin L. Ritter, a community
organizer, reported "hundreds" of city employees used
their IDs to get into the chamber and occupy seats that
Chicagoans opposed to the resolution would have

On the second floor of city hall, Occupy Chicago
reported Chicago police were "assaulting" some of their
members. Writer Joe Macare, who was present for the
vote, heard a call for "reinforcements."

Occupy Chicago mic checked during the vote, "The first not a those who can
afford...permits, fines & insurance." They shouted
"Shame!" and "Who do you work for?" The shouting echoed
through the halls and even people on the 11th floor of
City Hall could hear those protesting the ordinances.

Perhaps, this tweet shows best what the effect of these
ordinances could be:

It means that voices most often marginalized in society
will have a harder time raising their voice without some
police officer breathing down their neck informing them
that they are violating some city rule that says they
cannot exercise their First Amendment rights without
doing this or without doing that. It means a march of
immigrants where tens of thousands of people poured into
the streets of Chicago in 2006 would be criminalized
with city authorities identifying people so they could
levy fines.

Emanuel and the city council seem to have passed these
ordinances to dare Chicagoans to defend their right to
dissent. Citizens, especially major activist groups and
community organizations in Chicago, are definitely going
to respond and continue to build public opposition to
these new rules. And civil liberties lawyers will likely
jump at the opportunity to challenge the rules in court
the first chance they get.


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