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LOCAL News :: Civil & Human Rights

Latest Changes to Permit Ordinances Leave Intact Grave Violations to Civil Liberties

CHICAGO, Jan. 13 – G8 / NATO protesters who yesterday won a permit to march on the McCormick Place meetings are ramping up pressure on the City Council to reject Mayor Emanuel's proposed
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While the Mayor's office has spun yesterday's rejigging of his December proposals as full of concessions to protesters, activists with long experience with the City's permit process say that the concessions are relatively minor, and that major civil liberties issues remain in the proposed ordinances. Moreover, they charge that yesterday's private briefing with aldermen violates the spirit if not the letter of Illinois' Open Meetings Act, which requires that meetings of elected officials containing 50% or more of a quorum be open to public scrutiny.

The fact that the Mayor refused to allow any of his people to go on the record with the press and that the press was not given printed copies of the proposed ordinances gives the lie to his repeated claims of transparency," said Pat Hunt, an organizer with the Coalition Against the NATO / G8 War & Poverty Agenda (CANG8).

"We had journalists calling us yesterday with fantastic claims about concessions that were allegedly contained in the mayor's revamped proposals, but when we got hold of the actual printed materials from friendly aldermen, they bore little relation to the mayoral spokesmen's claims," said Andy Thayer, also with CANG8.

A line-by-line analysis of Emanuel's proposed "improvements" reveals that the vast majority of civil liberties violations remain intact in the proposed legislation:

  • Every march application would require "a description of any recording equipment, sound amplification equipment, banners, signs, or other attention-getting devices to be used in connection with the parade." So march organizers would have to accurately vet every sign, banner, bullhorn – months in advance – or be subject to fines under the new ordinance.

  • All of the anti-"public assembly" provisions — apparently aimed at the Occupy Chicago movement — remain in the new version of the ordinance. Union pickets and other sidewalk activities also would be subject to excessive bureaucratic oversight.

  • Unlike the current ordinance, almost all downtown marches and many neighborhood ones would be subject to onerous insurance requirements.

  • In what the City hails as a concession, the minimum fine for violation of the parade permit ordinance would "only" quadruple, from $50 to $200, as opposed to increasing 20-fold in Emanuel's original proposal. The maximum fine would remain at $1000, with a possible 10 days jail time as well.

  • Both the current and proposed versions of the parade ordinance give broad authority to the Commissioner of Transportation to "promulgate rules and regulations to implement this section." Given the mayor's demonstrated hostility to protest organizers, activists fear that this clause will give the administration unfettered license to slip onerous regulations in through the back door without the formality of a City Council vote.

  • Aside from the no-bid contracts and deputizing law enforcement provisions, all of the changes would be permanent.

    The City Council is scheduled to vote on Emanuel's ordinance changes at its meeting on Wednesday, January 18. Two City Council committees are scheduled to discuss the changes on Tuesday, January 17 – the Committee on Budget and Government Operations at 10 AM in the 2nd floor City Council chambers, and the Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation at 1 PM in Room 201A.



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