Chicago settles with war protesters for $6M

February 9, 2012 3:14:13 PM PST
Chicago taxpayers will be shelling out more than $6 million to demonstrators and others arrested during an anti-war protest back in 2003.

City lawyers have agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit involving those arrests.

The $6.2 million settlement could have implications on how police handle protesters during the upcoming G8 and NATO summits in Chicago.

When a federal judge recent ridiculed what he saw as the "idiocy" of the city's policies on protests, it paved the wave for this settlement and changes to how police handle demonstrators.

The day after bombs began to fall in Baghdad, thousands of people took to the streets in Chicago to protest. After taking over the Mag Mile and Lake Shore Drive, police essentially penned them in.

"They are telling people you have to go back to Lake Shore Drive. When people go back to Lake Shore Drive, they tell you to go back to Michigan Avenue. Basically we're pinned in," said one protester seen in a home video from 2003.

"I just didn't know there was a problem, that bad things were going to happen," said 2003 war protester Cheryl Angelaccio.

Angelaccio was among the nearly 700 people who were arrested or detained by police that night. A federal judge found the actions of officers arbitrary. He said CPD allowed the march but then, without warning, began arresting many of those who officers themselves wouldn't allow to leave.

"The chilling effect is, it had the potential, and in some cases it did, scare people from coming out and ever protesting again," said plaintiff's attorney Joey Mogul.

The city now concedes it was wrong.

The settlement calls for those arrested and charged that night to receive up to $15,000. Those arrested but not charged could get as much as $8,750. And those who were simply detained on the street for several hours are eligible for up to $500.

Fast forward to late last year: Chicago Police officers warned Occupy protestors several times and gave them the option to leave Grant Park before arrests began.

"We've certainly learned the lessons of the past and what it is we need to do," said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

Angelaccio says she is hopeful those lessons will be front of mind when she and fellow protesters once again demonstrate, this time during the G8 and NATO summits in May.

"I have noticed that we got orders to disperse at an Occupy Chicago march, so I guess that's a good step," said Angelaccio.

Chicago Police insist they are far better prepared and trained to deal with protesters today than they were in 2003.

But, when G8 and NATO leaders arrive to Chicago in May, CPD officers will be on the frontlines. The police will be just the first layer of security that will also include the FBI, ATF and Secret Service. Tensions will be high, and as the I-Team has been reporting, these summits typically attract people intent on causing trouble as opposed to local anti-war demonstrators.