Protesters file for permits at G8, NATO summits

January 4, 2012 10:21:32 AM PST
Protesters applied Tuesday for their first parade permit that would allow them to demonstrate at the upcoming G8 and NATO summits in Chicago.

The city wants to avoid the violent protests that have marred some previous G8 summits in other cities, so the mayor had proposed some new restrictions on where and when protests could be held, and how long they could last. The new rules, he had said, would return to the old rules once G8 and NATO are done the fourth week of May. But it appears now the rules will be much more permanent than temporary.

Some long-time activists filed for their parade permit. They are planning a large protest march from Daley Plaza to McCormick Place the weekend of the NATO and G8 gatherings in Chicago. Under new rules proposed by the mayor to more tightly restrict public protests during that event, any so-called parade on city streets will be limited to two hours. Beyond that, the marchers are subject to arrest.

"The more pugnacious the city behaves, the more pugnacious they can expect as a response," said Political consultant/activist Don Rose.

Activists say the tightened city rules threaten free speech and are unduly provocative. If someone plans a protest for Daley Plaza, they must first go to the private real estate firm that manages the property. If there is a march, organizers must have parade marshals, one for every 100 marchers.

If sound equipment is used, it has to be registered in advance. Parks and beaches would remain off limits longer. And fines for violating the rules would jump dramatically.

What's more, protest leaders say, is the new rules will not be temporary as the mayor had said they would.

"This does not just affect G8 and NATO protesters. I can't underline that enough," said activist Andy Thayer. "Everyone who's got a beef with the city or private employer could be affected by this ordinance."

"New Year's resolution. I made a mistake. Real simple," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The mayor acknowledged Tuesday that some of what he had said would be temporary for the G8 will in fact be permanent -- like dramatically increased fines for public misbehavior.

"First Amendment rights will be protected," Emanuel said, "and public safety will be protected, and I don't see the two at all in conflict."

While there will doubtless be legal challenges, DePaul Law Vice Dean David Franklin says the courts traditionally have backed government restrictions on time, manner and place of protests, so long as they are not seen as unreasonable.

"If a regulation is aimed at volume of speech rather than content, the courts are likely to give government a lot of leeway," said DePaul College of Law Professor David Franklin.

The mayor says the increase in fines for resisting or obstructing a police officer -- the maximum would double to $1,000 -- brings Chicago more in line with financial penalties already imposed In New York and Los Angeles.

The changes proposed for the G8 and beyond will go before the City Council January 18.