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Protester vying for vacant city council seat

Here's something Michael Pitula left off his application to serve on the Naperville City Council: anarchist.
By Stacy St. Clair Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted on June 16, 2002

Here's something Michael Pitula left off his application to serve on the Naperville City Council: anarchist.

The 24-year-old council hopeful was arrested during last summer's Reclaim the Streets rally, the annual protest in which aspiring anarchists block downtown traffic in an attack against Naperville's so-called bourgeois lifestyle.

Pitula pleaded guilty to mob action earlier this year and was ordered to pay a $130 fine and perform 70 hours of public service. Sixteen other people were arrested during the rally.

When asked about his arrest and subsequent application this month to fill a city council vacancy, the Naperville man failed to see the irony of an anarchist wanting to govern.

"I was there to exercise my rights," Pitula said.

Pitula, a field engineer for an environmental company, says he attended the rally to protest the G7, a coalition of the world's leading industrial nations.

At some point during the rally, Pitula contends a police officer pulled him from the street and shot pepper spray into his eyes. Pitula says he received other injuries during the struggle, but did not require medical treatment.

Though he remains critical of the Naperville Police Department's handling of the protest, Pitula contends he could be fair to officers if he is appointed to the council.

"I would participate in assessing their performance and adherence to their mission," he said.

Pitula is one of 20 applicants vying for the city council seat vacated by Kevin Gallagher, who resigned last month to join a local law firm. The remaining council members are expected to select Gallagher's replacement by early July.

City officials say they are aware of Pitula's arrest. Though his résumé did not mention an affiliation with Reclaim the Streets, several council members described his application as "thoughtful" and "well-written."

Among other things, Pitula promised to bring a knowledge of parliamentary procedure to the dais.

"He presented a nice write-up and was thoughtful," Councilman Richard Furstenau said. "But there are other candidates who offer much more than this young man. He would not necessarily be my pick."

Pitula, who finished 13th out of 14 candidates in the 2001 city council primary, does not believe his criminal record will harm his chances of being tapped for the seat.

While the council mulls his application, Pitula will not say whether he will attend the next Reclaim the Streets rally on June 29. He has attended weekly organizational meetings, but demurs when pressed about his attendance at the event.

"My plans for June 29," he said, "are my own."
 
 

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