Protesters denied changes in summit march

March 19, 2012 3:20:53 PM PDT
A court fight is expected over a planned protest during the NATO summit this May.

The City of Chicago denied some of the changes protestors wanted for their planned march.

"If the city is to be believed, our first date was fine and dandy," said protest organizer Andy Thayer. "The second date would cause Armageddon in the streets of Chicago."

Two months ago, the city approved a permit that would have allowed protestors to gather at Daley Plaza and then march south, largely on State St. to outskirts of McCormick Place on Saturday, May 19, the start of the G8 Summit.

But the G8 is now off to Camp David, so lead protestors filed a new parade permit request, identical to the first one. The only change is the date, Sunday, May 20, to coincide with the start of the NATO summit.

This time, the city says that a parade on that date would "substantially and unnecessarily interfere with traffic" and that "there are not available at the time of the parade a sufficient number of on-duty police officers" to handle traffic and all the other issues a protest parade could present.

"It begs the question - if the city doesn't have the resources to host a summit as well as protect first amendment activities, then why did they ask for the damn summits in the first place?" Thayer said.

The city says this is largely an issue of the date, that NATO is a much larger gathering than G8, there will be many more dignitaries arriving by motorcade on Sunday the 20 and that a parade down State St. toward McCormick could contribute to gridlock.

The city has proposed an alternative: that the protestors gather at the Petrillo Band Shell in Grant Park and then march south to the outskirts of McCormick Place. Thayer says that's unacceptable, and has countered with two other suggested routes.

"Hopefully the city will do the right thing," he said. "Frankly, their history in this regard, their track record, has not been all that great, so we fully expect to go to court on this."

Fundamental to the protestors' wishes is that they be able to be seen and heard by those whose policies they're protesting.

The courts, though, have quite often shown deference to government when it sets rules on where people can protest.