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Occupy Chicago Challenges Rahm Emanuel's NATO/G8 Protester Ordinances

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OCCUPY CHICAGO NATO G8
Occupy Chicago protesters approach the LaSalle Street bridge in downtown Chicago during a November rally. | AP

An activist coalition affiliated with Occupy Chicago on Monday launched a campaign against the harsh fines and restrictions Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced for the upcoming G8 and NATO summits in the city in May.

Occupy the South Side and Occupy Rogers Park issued a notice to all fifty members of Chicago's City Council warning that any alderman's support of what they've coined Emanuel's "Sit Down and Shut Up" ordinance "will be met with strong and principled resistance in their respective communities."

The coalition said in a statement that "questions abound" regarding the ordinance, both when it comes to its scope and the veracity with which the mayor has called for its swift approval. They say that both the ordinance and the mayor's tactics with which he hopes to pass it "stand in stark contrast to Chicago's democratic values" and are urging council members to pledge to "stand against the Mayor's attempt to bully them into suppressing non-violent free speech in their communities."

The campaign arrives almost one week after activists applying for demonstration permits allowing them to legally demonstrate against the upcoming summits called the requirements outlined in Emanuel's ordinances "ridiculously burdensome" for protesters.

In December, Emanuel announced that the fine for resisting a police officer would be doubled from its current range of $25 to $500 to $200 to $1,000. The mayor's ordinance also restricted the hours of public parks, playgrounds and beaches in accordance with the Chicago Park District's hours of operation. A second ordinance applying to the protests also, among other changes, requires organizers to provide a parade marshal of their own for every 100 demonstration participants.

Emanuel came under criticism as activists pointed out that new requirements initially said to only temporarily apply to the May summits would be the new law of the land in Chicago. The mayor, in response, claimed that he had misspoke and admitted that the new fines and requirements would, indeed, be permanent.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Police Department is continuing to gear up for the expected protests. As the Chicago Tribune reported late last week, CPD plans to switch officers to 12-hour shifts during the conferences. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has already given the city some $55 million to prepare for the summits, some of which the mayor hopes will be used toward those officers' overtime pay.

Michael Shields, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, remained skeptical whether, even with the DHS support, Chicago police will be able to handle the sort of protests he anticipates.

"[T]hese aren't 14-year-old kids running wild downtown stealing iPhones," Shields told the Tribune. "These are people who travel around the world as professional anarchists and rioters."

Activists preparing for a May 19 rally at Daley Plaza followed by a march to the McCormick Place, where the summits are being held, have argued that the mayor's new rules could actually encourage the sort of 1968 Democratic National Convention-esque confrontation the mayor's office would probably like to avoid, NBC Chicago reported.

"The more pugnacious the city gets, the more provocative it becomes," long-time Chicago activist Don Rose told NBC last week.

The City Council is expected to consider the new regulations during their next meeting on Jan. 18. Activists preparing to demonstrate against the summits have threatened to sue the city if the rules are approved.

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