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Chicago NATO, G8 Protesters Request Demonstration Permits, May Sue City Over New Rules

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Anti-war protesters demonstrate in downtown Chicago in October 2011. Widespread protests are expected when the city concurrently hosts the NATO and G8 summits in May.
Anti-war protesters demonstrate in downtown Chicago in October 2011. Widespread protests are expected when the city concurrently hosts the NATO and G8 summits in May.

Activists preparing to demonstrate against Chicago's concurrent hosting of the G8 and NATO summits at the city's McCormick Place in May applied for demonstration permits Tuesday morning, the first day they were legally allowed.

The activists did not anticipate a rosy reception, per a statement from the Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism. The group is dismayed that Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy has threatened mass arrests of G8/NATO protesters. Further, they point out that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed not only for harsher fines for protesters deemed to be in violation of city codes, but also an expansion of requirements the coalition called "ridiculously burdensome."

Last month, Emanuel announced that the fine for resisting a police officer, for example, would be more than doubled from its current range of $25 to $500 to $500 to $1,000. The mayor's ordinance also amended the hours of public parks, playgrounds and beaches in accordance with the Chicago Park District's hours of operation. The proposal also green lights the CPD's ability to enter into agreements with other agencies, such as the FBI or Illinois State Police, in order to manage the expected protesters.

The proposal was initially thought to only apply to the upcoming G8 and NATO summits, but the Chicago Tribune reports that the mayor's office admitted the new regulations will be permanent.

Emanuel claimed Tuesday, as reported by the Tribune, that he misspoke when he previously stated that the new rules governing protests in the city were only temporary.

In addition to the already publicized details of the proposal, Emanuel's ordinance would require organizers to provide a parade marshal of their own for every 100 demonstration participants and limit their usage of a bullhorn to between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. The duration of legal demonstrations would be reduced by 15 minutes to just two hours, according to the Tribune.

Andy Thayer, a leader of the activist coalition, told CBS Chicago that he was alarmed by the proposal, which presents significant obstacles to the coalition's planned May 19 rally at Daley Plaza, followed by a march to the McCormick Place.

"I think we need to really push back on the mayor on this one. It's outrageous," Thayer told CBS. "They're making it much more difficult to grant them. It's basically shifting all of the goal posts in the administration's favor."

Emanuel previously countered that he recognized that protesters "have the right -- which I believe firmly in -- of expressing themselves, and their First Amendment right needs to be protected" but added that the city also has the right, and obligation, "to enforce the law and to protect the law." Both of those things can and will be accomplished concurrently, the mayor urged.

Long-time Chicago activist Don Rose said Tuesday the new rules could actually encourage the sort of 1968 Democratic National Convention-esque confrontation the mayor's office would probably like to avoid. Activists may sue the city if the proposal is approved, NBC Chicago reports.

"The more pugnacious the city gets, the more provocative it becomes," Rose said, according to NBC.

The City Council is slated to consider Emanuel's new regulations governing demonstrations during their next meeting on Jan. 18.

Photo by World Can't Wait via Flickr.

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