Occupy Chicago Denied Permanent Grant Park Base After Meeting With City (PHOTOS)
Occupy Chicago protesters on Thursday met for the first time with city representatives and were denied their request to find a permanent demonstration base at the city's Grant Park.
Fox Chicago reports that Occupy Chicago further requested for all pending charges be dropped against the more than 300 demonstrators that have been arrested in recent weeks -- a request which was also denied.
A city Law Department spokesman described the meeting was cordial but noted that the city must enforce its laws, even as it respects protesters' First Amendment rights to free expression, according to the Associated Press.
"This movement is about building community, and for that to happen, we need a home," Occupy Chicago organizers said in a statement announcing the meeting. "We’re creating a forum for discussion, where grievances can be aired, engaging in the kind of constructive debate that no longer takes place in politics, or in the media."
Following the meeting, Occupy Chicago demonstrators dedicated a candlelight vigil during their general assembly to Scott Olsen, the former Marine who fractured his skull at the Occupy Oakland demonstration this week, an injury organizers claim police caused.
The demonstrators then appear to have attempted to occupy the Thompson Center, but were thwarted by state police who, according to the protesters' Twitter account, told protesters they would be arrested if they advanced beyond the sidewalk toward the building after being told to leave the premises. No arrests were reported.
"There is no where to practice free speech in Chicago," Occupy Chicago tweeted after they were asked to leave the Thompson Center.
On Wednesday afternoon, approximately 150 Occupy Chicago protesters, along with representatives from Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda, headed to City Hall to deliver a petition to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office. A mayoral aide, not Emanuel, accepted the petition, which had been signed by more than 12,500 people asking that the demonstrators be granted a permanent base, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Earlier this week, Emanuel commented on the "Occupy" arrests and stated, "There's a balancing act. ... People have their first amendment right. It's protected and they're expressing their views. And I've expressed my understanding of those economic hardships while making sure the law is enforced." According to NBC Chicago, he has no intention of dropping charges against the protesters.