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American Dream Betrayed

City Council Demands You Shut Up And Sit Down, Just Like They Do

I could write that the the Chicago City Council passed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's draconian crackdown on free speech on Wednesday because they are still a collection of spineless twits, naifs and plain lousy persons, and that city government is still a boss and his tools, despite the malarkey emanating from aldermen being played in a kinder, gentler but more devious way, but then Ald. Joe Moore would accuse me of "overheated rhetoric and over-the-top hyperbole."

What seems to be overheated and over-the-top to me, though, are the two ordinances Moore and his colleagues just passed despite the ink barely being dry on some of the provisions that just had to be rushed into law without due debate because the G8/NATO summits which have been scheduled for a year are now . . . four months away.

But there was Moore - and his so-called hip partner in progressive politics Joe Moreno - falling all over themselves to heap praise on Rahm Emanuel and his listening skills as if they would otherwise be carted off to jail themselves for violating the new rules that, as reported by Progress Illnois, include provisions requiring "paying parade insurance to the city, and registering for a protest permit 15 days prior to the event. The ordinance also says that protesters must provide the city with a list of all signs, banners, sound equipment, or 'attention-getting devices' that need more than one person to carry them."

Of course, rules like this need never be written for the council itself because they never object to anything anyway.

"Mayor Emanuel should be congratulated for his open-mindedness," Moore said.

On the other hand, there's the hyperbole of University of Chicago student Sam Brody: "If something egregious happens on a Tuesday, we should be able to have a large protest about it outside of City Hall on Wednesday."

Whoa! Slow down, partner.

*

There were actually two ordinances passed on Wednesday, described thusly by the Tribune: "Mayor Rahm Emanuel easily won approval Wednesday for two measures that will tighten parade rules, increase fines for violating the restrictions and give him unfettered power to spend money on two international summits coming to Chicago in May."

I'll get to that unfettered power in a bit.

But first, a public service announcement from the Reader's Mick Dumke:

"Aldermen didn't get much time to study Mayor Rahm Emanuel's newest proposals for tightening protest regulations before they came before two City Council committees Tuesday. In the latest episode of an ongoing story, most of the new rules were handed out to aldermen a few minutes after the start of the meeting called to approve them.

"Nor could our council representatives have possibly gotten the message that their constituents are in favor of the plans to deputize police from outside Chicago, restrict access to public parks and beaches, raise fees for parades and marches, and require preapproval from the city for the use of large signs, banners, or sound equipment. Scores of opponents ripped the proposals in a demonstration before the committee hearings and in testimony to aldermen.

"Plus, a number of the aldermen expressed their own concerns about the intent and impact of the proposals, pushed by Emanuel in advance of the NATO and G8 summits Chicago will host in May. 'I think we all agree on the need to prepare,' said 44th Ward alderman Tom Tunney. 'But my question is with the First Amendment part of this.'

"On the other hand, the mayor wanted the proposals passed."

And pass they did:

"[Leslie Hairston (5th)] was joined in opposing the parade and protest rules by Robert Fioretti (2nd), Will Burns (4th), and Nicholas Sposato (36th). The same four cast nays on the contracting and deputizing ordinance, along with Sandi Jackson (7th)."

The rest went with Rahm.

"I do not think we've had enough time to see how far these measures go," Hairston said.

Which was just the point - both of activists upset with the ordinance and City Hall, which didn't want restrictions of free speech up for discussion.

*

"Almost everyone agrees that having these two summits in our city is a great opportunity to solidify our rightful place as a world city," Ald. Joe Moreno wrote on Huffington Post explaining his votes in favor of the new ordinances.

I'm not sure which part of that declaration is worse: "Almost everyone," "great opportunity," or "solidify our rightful place as a world city."

My guess is that almost everyone agrees this is a nightmare in the making; hence the crackdown. Little good can come of hosting both these events in the current political environment. That's why Rahm has put the city on a crisis footing.

Rahm didn't just make a mistake when he made a grab for emergency powers; he thinks this is an emergency.

And while business leaders, for example, may agree with Moreno that it's a "great opportunity" to show off the elite parts of the city to the world's elites, even that noted bastion of dirty hippiedom called Crain's Chicago Business thinks the new rules go way too far. You might say they aren't befitting of a world-class city.

But Crain's doesn't sit on the city council, so they still have their souls intact.

"While my original position was to vote against this ordinance," Moreno writes, "my opinion changed over the last two days, because of the concessions and changes made to the original proposal."

Really? Which concessions in particular were the big sticking points that won you over?

"[I]n the end, I don't believe that the particulars of this ordinance significantly curtail 1st Amendment rights enough to justify a no vote."

They just curtail a little bit!

*

And then there's the money.

"Thirty-first Ward alderman Ray Suarez, hardly a frequent dissenter himself, wanted clarity about another point - who's going to be on the hook for the estimated $40 million to $65 million expense of hosting the summits this spring?" Dumke reports.

"'That has not been determined, [police chief Garry] McCarthy said.

"Suarez looked confused. 'In our briefings we were led to believe that the federal government will cover the cost of this thing. Now you're telling me something different.'

"A number of administration officials and fellow aldermen jumped in to tell Suarez he shouldn't worry, since the city had appealed to federal officials and was planning to apply for grants to cover the expenses. 'I've been assured it will not cost the city," said Carrie Austin, the council's budget committee chair.'"

The money isn't even in the city's hands. Oy.

*

Of course, we've seen this movie before. The parking meter leasing deal that aldermen didn't have time to read; authority over contracts shifted from the council to the mayor's office; scare tactics over security used to chip away at civil liberties.

Just the sort of things activists are upset about.

*

Scene report from a Beachwood associate:

"They wouldn't let Occupiers into the council chambers. First they claimed it was a capacity. So I went up to the mezzanine and photographed empty seats and came back down to the 2nd floor. When I showed them the evidence they were lying, the cops reconvened then announced that the mayor simply refused us inside."

You aren't allowed to protest a vote about protest restrictions! In fact, you can't even watch it!

*

Some protesters were eventually let in - and some eventually kicked out. Next time they'll have to preregister and buy insurance.

*

From @BeachwoodReport:

* City council overwhelmingly approves Rahm's Rules for Pesky Protests. Now he'll get what he's asking for this spring. #wholeworldwatching

* Maybe there'd be more outrage if Rahm outlawed dibs instead of our civil rights.

* Rahm's mom was a civil rights worker so his dismantling of the same civil liberties she fought for should be accepted for our own good.

* Breaking! New parade ordinance fines Ringling elephants $1,000 for not cleaning up their poop. And $2,000 for complaining about it.

* Breaking! New protest/dibs ordinance replaces aldermen with plastic chairs.

* Breaking! New protest ordinance includes provision prohibiting returns to Sears. #shutupandsitdown

* Rahm: "You're mad as hell and you're gonna sit there and take it!"

* Breaking! New protest ordinance prohibits booing at Chicago sports events. "Makes us look bad to the rest of the world.

* Reminder: Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago City Council are DEMOCRATS.

* Rahm/Obama mashup: Pay to protest or we'll detain you indefinitely.

* Rahm/SOPA/Obama mashup: Notify us in advance of signs you plan to bring so we can black out the bad words or detain you indefinitely.

* Rahm/Obama 2012 mashup: Shut up and sit down or Mitt Romney will get elected and take away your civil rights!

*

Song of the Moment: Know Your Rights.

-

Comments welcome.



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Posted on January 19, 2012


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