Nurses challenge NATO rally site change

May 9, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Free speech and national security are often on conflicting paths when cities host global summits, as Chicago is doing in just a little over a week with the NATO summit. A variety of groups planning protests to coincide with the summit contend that the city has been two-faced: signaling that it's approving parade permits, and then changing the rules of engagement.

National Nurses Unite, the largest nurses union in the country, accuses the city of an 11th hour turn-about, and is taking its case to federal court

"Nurses don't harm. We heal," National Nurses United member Jean Ross said.

The National Nurses United had a permit that would have allowed the union to march to Daley Plaza on Friday, May 18th. The city has now told the union it can march -- but not to Daley Plaza. Instead, the city said the group must go to the Petrillo Band Shell at Grant Park.

The city says the change was made because the nurses chose to bring in former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello to perform, which could attract a larger than expected crowd.

"They talked about 1,000 people and nothing about kind of a rock concert. And if you were to change the type of event, it's more appropriate to have it in Grant Park rather than Daley Plaza during a work day," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

"Nurses with Tom Morello and one acoustic guitar are no threat to national security," Ross said.

The nurses are going to federal court to challenge the city's decision, which they also contend does not pass historical muster. After all, two million people celebrated a Stanley Cup in the Loop; tens of thousands converged on Daley Plaza for a Super Bowl championship; and Oprah Winfrey closed down Michigan Avenue for two days for her show.

"The fact of the matter is that they're trying to marginalize the nurses' message. They're trying to marginalize our message. They're trying to marginalize the vets' message. It's contemptible what this mayor is doing right now," Andy Thayer, activist, said.

The nurses said they want to gather at Daley Plaza because "it is the throbbing heart of Chicago." In denying another permit request that would have involved Daley Plaza, the city earlier argued that it wouldn't have sufficient numbers of police to provide the security that's needed in the Loop, particularly when there are many motorcades. However, those motorcades do not really begin until Sunday, May 20, when the NATO summit begins.

The NATO Summit is May 20-21.

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