City OKs NATO protest, march for Sunday, May 20

April 4, 2012 8:13:07 PM PDT
The City of Chicago has changed its mind. It now says it will allow people protesting the NATO summit to march on Sunday, May 20. Until Wednesday, the city had refused to grant a protest permit for that day.

The compromise agreed to late Wednesday by protest organizers and City Hall means there will be a march on the first day of NATO meetings in Chicago. Just as world leaders begin their meetings at McCormick Place, protesters will begin a gathering of their own.

Sunday, May 20, at 2 p.m., protesters will be allowed to gather at the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park. From there, they will march west on Jackson, to State Street. They'll head south before eventually arriving on Indiana, between Cermak and 23rd, where protesters say they have been given the green light to rally in the street.

The letter from City Hall says the group must disband by 4:15 p.m. That will put anarchists, anti-globalization groups and others with grievances about two or three blocks away from NATO leaders at McCormick Place.

"It's a tremendous victory for our side," said Andy Thayer, who represents the Coalition against NATO and G8. "We shouldn't have to fight these kind of First Amendment battles to win the right to march."

Approving the march is a reversal for Rahm Emanuel's administration, which originally denied a protest permit on that date, saying Chicago Police couldn't handle securing the summit and its attendees while at the same time corralling potentially marchers on the move.

Protest leaders say they are pleased the city has agreed two of their three demands. They had also wanted Mayor Emanuel to agree to go to back for them if the Secret Service comes in and adjusts the protest route for security reasons.

It is a victory for anti-NATO groups, but this route could still be changed when the Secret Service identifies the security perimeter it will establish around McCormick Place. Those details won't be made public until sometime around May 1.

Ultimately, there may be more legal action.

"The federal government typically will come in and sweep aside local permits that have been granted," Thayer said. "And then we'll have a new battle on our hands in terms of the right to exercise the First Amendment on the streets of Chicago."