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The Rest of Chicago Fights For Its Rights

The essence of democracy is at stake.

1. The 99% vs. Rahm.

"A coalition of unions, religious leaders, community organizations and other concerned citizens is set to condemn a package of ordinances proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that amounts to an all-out assault on the civil liberties of Chicagoans," Danny Postel writes in a statement for Stand Up! Chicago. (Links added.)

"The group will conduct a press conference on Tuesday at a.m. on the 2nd floor of City Hall (one hour before a budget committee hearing on the proposed ordinances).

"The new restrictions place onerous limits on the First Amendment right to free speech and assembly, including burdensome permit requirements for even small sidewalk protests, the threat of steep new fines and other provisions that are practically impossible to comply with. The upshot is that almost any organization or group of individuals that wishes to express dissent can quickly find themselves on the wrong side of the law and subject to arrest and fines.

"Though Emanuel initially claimed that the provisions were solely aimed at planned protests of the upcoming NATO/G8 summit in May, he later admitted that they would indeed be permanent, giving police sweeping new powers to crack down on protests of all sorts.

"This is especially worrisome at a time when groups of all sorts - labor unions, community organizations, schoolteachers and health-care providers - are faced with the need to mobilize to defend public education and city services from the mayor's budget axe. And it sets up a situation that will give police sweeping powers to crack down on the First Amendment rights of the thousands of people expected to protest the NATO/G8 summit that will take place in Chicago, May 19-21.

"'Human rights earned by years of struggle and hope must not be vanquished in a moment of fear,' said Rev. Jesse Jackson in a statement of solidarity to Chicago activists. 'And so we march to preserve that which is intrinsic to the integrity of our nation and our self-worth. I appeal to the mayor to honor time-honored principles of our democracy. The right to fight for our rights is what democracy looks like. So long as our fight is nonviolent and transparent, our rights must be honored.'

"'We teach our students that free speech, public protest and civic participation are the hallmarks of democracy in our nation,' said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. 'The plan to restrict Chicagoan's First Amendment rights and impose huge fines on those who dare to stand up for what they believe sends the wrong message to over 400,000 CPS students who've been taught our civil liberties exist so we might keep those we entrust with our democratic process accessible and accountable.'

"Emanuel is already responding to the outcry about his broadside against the right to dissent, according to Joe Iosbaker, an organizer with the Coalition Against NATO/G8 Agenda of War and Poverty (CANG8).
 'The tide of opposition to the Mayor's assault on civil liberties is the reason that the city has granted our permit to march on May 19 during the summit where NATO will discuss its plans for war and the G8 will figure out how to further attack the living standards of working people,' said Iosbaker. 'But we will keep bringing pressure to bear until the mayor stops trying to push through his 'sit-down-and-shut-up' ordinance that targets the right to dissent for all Chicagoans."'

"Mark Clements was tortured by former Chicago police commander Jon Burge, falsely convicted, and sent to prison until a campaign to free him finally succeeded. 'I am a Chicago police torture victim,' said Clements. 'I was tortured into signing a false confession under Jon Burge. I won my freedom largely because activists pursued the call for justice, and they did so in the streets until they got results. I say that Mayor Emanuel must not place any restrictions on our constitutionally guaranteed rights.'

"According to a statement by Occupy Chicago, the proposed ordinance changes contain 'a host of bureaucratic tools, created by and for the 1 percent to relegate, abridge, fine, arrest, and silence our speech. It is an attempt to bully and intimidate with increased police power and fines the brave working people who demand the ability to participate democratically in the organizing of our society. It is an attempt, by the 1 percent, to restrict and regulate the voice of the people when it upsets the structure that put them in power. The timing of the ordinance demonstrates that it has nothing to do with public safety but that its sole purpose is to stifle the voice and trample upon the constitutional liberties of all the people of Chicago.'

"'From the perspective of a nurse who was arrested while providing first-aid care to protestors, Mayor Emanuel's aggressive treatment of peaceful protesters this past year has been disgraceful,' said registered nurse Martese Chism. Chism is a member of National Nurses United and was arrested as part of Occupy Chicago's attempt to establish an encampment. 'And with his proposed ordinance changes, he wants to further repress the 99 percent by attacking our constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.'

"In addition to the above individuals and organizations, Andy Thayer, who has done a line-by-line analysis of the new ordinances, will speak on behalf of CANG8 and the Gay Liberation Network regarding the many remaining problems with Emanuel's 'new and improved' revised proposal.

"Larry Greenfield, the Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, will speak about a petition being circulated by members of Chicago's faith communities.

"Jorge Mugica will speak about the impact on immigrant communities; a member of the Immigrant Youth Justice League will address the implications for their community.

"Jeff Frank with the National Lawyers Guild will provide legal details about the chilling effect of the proposed restrictions on the exercise of free speech.

"Martin Luther King Jr. perfectly summarized the grave concerns that the above groups have in his 'Letter from Birmingham Jail' in 1963. 'Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application,' wrote Dr. King. 'For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.'

"For this very reason, this broad coalition stands together, united, to demand that the city respect the basic civil liberties that generations have fought to preserve."

2. Those protesters are a bunch of whiners. Oh wait, Crain's said that?

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposal to crack down on protesters and sidestep competitive bidding for the G8 and NATO summits reinforces the very stereotypes that Chicago is trying to shed.

"The springtime gathering of world leaders (and their media entourages) provides a tremendous opportunity to show off Chicago--our parks, architecture, hospitality and arts. Instead, Mr. Emanuel is dragging out a city that still runs on clout and is eager to pick a fight with "outside agitators," to use one of Mayor Richard J. Daley's memorable phrases.

"The City Council should reject Mr. Emanuel's proposed ordinance when it comes up for a vote, scheduled for Wednesday."

*

"The mayor's time-is-of-the-essence justification seems questionable. Chicago was selected in June, but Mr. Emanuel didn't introduce his proposed ordinance until Dec. 14. It would be far better to speed up the existing contracting process than throw it out.

Mr. Emanuel also is sending the wrong message with his plan to address demonstrations. Doubling the fine for resisting a police officer to as much as $1,000 seems unlikely to deter rabble-rousers. Closing the parks at night for seven hours, instead of five, may do little more than disrupt the routines of city residents.

"The clashes between police and protesters in 1968 still echo, despite the successful, if emotionless, staging of the Democratic convention 28 years later. Mr. Emanuel's proposals seem driven more by a fear of reliving those bad memories than a sense that we have learned to tolerate raucous expressions of political views."

3. From the Tribune's "Secrecy Shrouds Emanuel's Planning For G8 And NATO Summits":

"Questions about the cost and plans for the summits remain as the City Council faces expected votes Wednesday on Emanuel's request for broad spending authority and changes in protest rules.

"On Tuesday, the Budget and Government Operations Committee is scheduled to consider Emanuel's request for unilateral contract authority if something is needed for the events that cannot be provided at the time by existing contracts. Those emergency contracts would not require competitive bidding.

"The Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation Committee also is expected to consider a controversial new parade ordinance that would seek to regulate protests for this event and all future demonstrations.

"[Host committee executive director Lori] Healey said the mayor is essentially seeking emergency procurement powers in case something arises at the last minute."

4. Actions planned today, according to Occupy Chicago:

* National Call-In Day: Call the City of Chicago, and your alderman, and demand that protest rights are not trampled on.

* 9 a.m. - Press conference ahead of planned City Council vote on January 18, City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle Street

* 4:30 p.m. - Funeral for the Bill of Rights, Jackson and LaSalle St.

* 6 p.m. - Town Hall meeting with 5th Ward Alderman, U of C International House (1414 E 54th St)

5. From the Tribune's "Chicago Summits Could Cost $65 Million":

"The first glimpse of what it will take to stage the G-8 and NATO gatherings came at a City Hall briefing conducted by Emanuel aides and the private organizing group he picked to lead the city's efforts. The setup provides Emanuel a measure of distance from any potential problems with the large events that could attract thousands of demonstrators to Chicago and inconvenience residents and commuters alike.

"Emanuel aides have promised for weeks to provide details of how the city will make good on the mayor's pledge to showcase Chicago to the world - including how the costs will be covered. But the Washington-style background briefing - used by government officials to provide information without attribution - left many questions unanswered. The mayor did not attend.

"In an interview with the Tribune after the briefing, Lori Healey, executive director of the private G-8/NATO host committee, estimated the cost will be between $40 million to $65 million.

"But she did not break down how the money will be spent, other than to give the broad parameters of public safety, marketing and social events. The city will be reimbursed through federal grants and private donations, according to Healey."

*

"Emanuel has handed many of the hosting duties for the summits to World Business Chicago, his hand-picked group of top business executives that functions as an economic development arm of the city. The WBC, which is funded in part with taxpayer money, controls the host committee and will be in charge of raising private donations to pay for some portion of the summit costs. Healey said the committee will disclose summit donors sometime this year, but how much individuals contributed will not be disclosed until a year after the summit."

6. ACLU: Vote No.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on January 17, 2012


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