Chicago: Protestors Cry Foul over Proposed G8, NATO Restrictions

by Michell Eloy

Protesters are criticizing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to raise fines and tighten security measures during the upcoming G8 and NATO summits.

The mayor introduced an ordinance during Wednesday's City Council meeting that, if passed, would temporarily raise fines for resisting police or aiding someone escaping arrest. During the summits, which could draw thousands of protesters, Emanuel wants to increase the minimum fine from $25 to $200 and double the maximum fine to $1,000. His proposed ordinance would also close parks, playgrounds and beaches overnight for longer periods of time.

"People are outraged," said Mary Zerkel, who's with the Quaker group American Friends Services Committee. "It's, again, the tightening of free speech."

Zerkel said the proposed restrictions could deter peaceful protesters.

"People are going to think twice about that kind of money to engage in non-violent civil disobedience," said Zerkel.

Emanuel has defended the ordinance as necessary to ensure the two international summits run without a problem.

"We're just doing what's appropriate to make sure we can hold the conference. People can express their views. The leaders can have their meetings, and we can do it in a safe and responsible way," said Emanuel.

Similar ordinances have been passed in other U.S. cities that have hosted international events. Pittsburgh, which hosted the G20 summit in 2009, passed ordinances that banned obstructive objects and masks used for the purpose of breaking the law. An ordinance was also passed that allowed the Pittsburgh Police Department to coordinate strategies with other law enforcement agencies and hire more officers, something Emanuel has also included in his ordinance for the upcoming summits.

"Without those ordinances, we wouldn't have been as safe," said Joanna Doven, a spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

University of Chicago Assistant Law Professor Aziz Huq said courts often grant cities more leeway in setting time, place and manor restrictions on protesters, so long as the restrictions are "content neutral."

"On the other hand, if there's reason to believe that what's going on here is the suppression of a particular view point, then I think that's a very different case," said Huq.

But David Franklin, vice dean at the DePaul College of Law, said the ordinance does seems within legal bounds.

"[Courts] taking up First Amendment cases look with a lot of suspicion on statutes that are vague, laws that have a lot of ambiguity in them, because the concern is the government will be able to use that vagueness as a way of exercising discretion," said Franklin. "[This ordinance] does seem to be content neutral and not especially vague."

The NATO and G8 summits are scheduled to be held a McCormick Place in mid May.
© 2011 WBEZ

Big Shoulders in Chicago and Kabul

by Kathy Kelly

Kabul--NATO/G8 meetings are scheduled to take place from May 19-21 next year in Chicago. Plans are ramping up everywhere. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen exulted over bringing NATO and the G8 to Chicago, and Clinton promised to call Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and convey Rasmussen's glowing opinion that Chicago, built upon diversity and determination, shares values that underpin NATO. Activists on the ground, envisioning a different kind of Chicago, and bracing themselves for the crushing, militarized police response that in recent years has consistently met protesters at these events, can only hope that this is not the case.

NATO leaders continue to prepare for conflict further and further from the North Atlantic shores. Chicagoan Rick Rozoff, who organizes the Stop NATO newslist, notes that in December 2011, Romania’s Senate ratified an agreement with the U.S. to station 24 Standard Missile-3 interceptors in Romania, located immediately across the Black Sea from Russia. A comparable deployment is planned for Poland, supplementing the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles already present there. A missile defense radar facility will be placed in Turkey. And there is talk of converting dozens if not scores of warships to Lockheed Martin's Aegis Combat System, equipping each ship with radar and missiles systems to project American power in what NATO has called the "European Phased Adaptive Approach.”. NATO is forging ahead on all fronts, although civilian leaders in Europe, in light of the region's growing economic crisis, could much better afford a retirement party for NATO than the programs to be ratified at the weapon-fest planned for Chicago.

Hillary Clinton, President Obama, former war-hawk senator Emanuel and other undisputed militarists in government seem to see Chicago as a city obsessed with power, a city determined above all to be tough and strong. Carl Sandburg famously depicted Chicago as the city of big shoulders, and it often seems too easy for political leaders and generals to confuse the strength involved in shouldering shared burdens with the very different kind of "toughness" that drives a fist or a nightstick. Sandberg perhaps made this distinction clear in a very different poem:


I HAVE been watching the war map slammed up for

advertising in front of the newspaper office.

Buttons--red and yellow buttons--blue and black buttons--

are shoved back and forth across the map. A laughing young man, sunny with freckles,

Climbs a ladder, yells a joke to somebody in the crowd,

And then fixes a yellow button one inch west

And follows the yellow button with a black button one

inch west.

(Ten thousand men and boys twist on their bodies in

a red soak along a river edge,

Gasping of wounds, calling for water, some rattling

death in their throats.)

Who would guess what it cost to move two buttons one

inch on the war map here in front of the newspaper

office where the freckle-faced young man is laughing

to us?

--Carl Sandburg

The NATO leaders who will be pushing the expensive buttons being purchased now, deploying weapons all over the world, won't see the cost. They won't see what it cost families in the Zhare district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province on November 23rd when a NATO plane mistook six of their children, who will forever now be aged from four to twelve years old, for insurgents. Abdul Samad, an uncle of four of the children, said his relatives were working in fields near their village when the aircraft attacked without warning.

I’m writing now from Kabul, Afghanistan. Ken Hannaford-Ricardi and Farah Mokhtareizadeh are here with me and we've just been joined by our friend Maya Evans from Voices in the Wilderness UK. We feel grateful to continue building relationships with the dedicated young activists of Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, who are moving toward forming delegations themselves by traveling to other provinces in Afghanistan to meet with youth groups bearing up under the heavy burdens of military occupation. They want to bring peace out of imperial chaos. Recently, they studied film footage about Truth and Reconciliation commissions in South Africa and segments of “A Force More Powerful,” documentary film footage about nonviolent efforts in Gandhi’s India and in U.S. cities where the civil rights movement struggled to end segregation. These youth exemplify real determination and diversity, of the sort Chicago is praised for, with an earnest desire to deepen both qualities in the service of peace. Every day they bear the burdens that will come a little closer to Chicago in May when the weight of an increasingly militarized domestic government comes down on anyone attempting to protest global fiscal austerity and the global military regime it pays for.

Yesterday, they welcomed a new friend who lives in a neighboring province and speaks a different language to join them and help them learn his language. Asked about NATO/ISAF night raids and other attacks that have occurred in his area, he said that families that have been attacked feel intense anger, but even more so people say they want peace. “However, international forces have made people feel less secure,” he added, “It’s unfortunate that internationals hear stories about Afghans being wild people and think that more civilized outsiders are trying to build the country. People here are suffering because of destruction caused by outsiders.”

My three companions and I, (three of us are from the U.S. and one from the UK), feel deeply moved as we witness these young people building up their big shoulders to bear heavy burdens. We felt similar appreciation and gratitude when witnessing the efforts of the Occupy movement which, in just three months. has reaffirmed international capacity for shouldering shared burdens, living simply and choosing inventive community over rigid systems of dominance.

Hillary Clinton doesn't seem to understand these things, but she told General Rasmussen that she hopes many people will come to Chicago for the NATO G8 summits, and so do I. I’m looking forward to people from Occupy Everywhere coming to Chicago.

Many friends in Chicago are getting ready to meet the concerted state apparatus, so determined to run smoothly in its blind mechanical course, with simple human power. It's going to involve tremendous work, but this is what life means everywhere now. The City of Big Shoulders earned its name before the period of modern U.S. Empire, the decades of artificial prosperity secured from above and fueled from abroad, which this upcoming summit will attempt to manage in its decline. I think that underneath the hype, underneath the intoxicating flow of wealth seized from abroad, the plastic, mechanized, isolated comforts of the boom, Chicago well understands the real meaning of strength and determination. We’ll need to remember a force more powerful than violence in the time that's coming, a strength that doesn't turn us against our neighbors and isn't handed down by the powerful, a courage that I see in the faces of the youth here in Kabul, confidently advertising it as its own reward.

Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Kathy Kelly's email is

Occupiers Target 'Mayor 1% Emanuel's' Anti-Protest Ordinance

Occupy Rogers Park, Occupy the South Side campaign against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's NATO/G-8 ordinance; "This measure is a permanent attack on public protest in the City of Chicago."

Last month Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced anti-protester legislation for the upcoming NATO and G-8 summits in Chicago.

Chicago's WBEZ reported:

"During the summits, which could draw thousands of protesters, Emanuel wants to increase the minimum fine from $25 to $200 and double the maximum fine to $1,000. His proposed ordinance would also close parks, playgrounds and beaches overnight for longer periods of time."

This past Tuesday, Emanuel clarified that these measures would in fact be permanent, and not just during the time of the summits. From WBEZ:

In fact, Emanuel said his proposal to dramatically increase fines for protesters who resist arrest - even passively - should be permanent. Some of the other sweeping powers the mayor is seeking - one would allow his office to unilaterally approve some city contracts - would expire once the May summits are over, he said.

This morning, Occupy Chicago reacted harshly to Emanuel's plan, which they call the 'Sit Down and Shut Up' ordinance. From the Occupy Chicago website:

This ordinance consists of a host of bureaucratic tools created by and for the 1% to relegate, abridge, fine, arrest, and silence our speech. It is an attempt to bully and intimidate with increased police power and fines the brave working people who demand the ability to participate democratically in the organizing of our society. It is an attempt, by the 1%, to restrict and regulate the voice of the people when it upsets the structure that put them in power. The timing of the ordinance demonstrates that it has nothing to do with public safety but that its sole purpose is to stifle the voice and trample upon the constitutional liberties of all the people of Chicago. It is the blatant criminalizing of any public assembly that does not serve the interest of the 1%. It is the handcuffing of democracy. Occupy Chicago condemns this ordinance and demands that they be revoked. Those who are on the side of the democracy of the 99% will stand with us.

This morning, Occupy the South Side and Occupy Rogers Park delivered a warning to all of the city's aldermen, indicating that if they supported the mayor's resolution, they should expext strong resistance.

From their letter to the aldermen:

As you are no doubt aware, Mayor Emanuel sponsored this ordinance and has promoted it in the media as a "temporary" measure aimed at controlling protesters during specified events taking place later this year. As you've surely read, the Mayor has since been forced to retract his claim that these changes were ever meant to be temporary. Another blatant inconsistency is that the ordinance applies to the entire city, while the NATO and G8 summits occur only downtown. Other inconsistencies in the presentation of this ordinance are similarly problematic.

Given what the ordinance actually says, it cannot be construed as an effort to protect the integrity of G8 and NATO conferences. This measure is a permanent attack on public protest in the City of Chicago. The consequences of this attack will be far reaching, and will be felt by protesters throughout the city, most of whom will never have any connection to the protests associated with these events.

As you are also aware, we celebrate the legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 16, 2012. Dr. King's legacy is not one of obedience to municipal authorities, but rather the inspiring story of a man who led a community that was willing to face down oppressive lawmakers by violating exactly the type of ordinance the Mayor is asking you to support.

It is difficult to overstate the contrast between celebrating the life and work of Dr. King on Monday, and codifying the suppression of dissent on Wednesday.

Occupy Chicago intends to keep the campaign up until January 18th, when the vote on the ordinances is scheduled.

ACLU of Illinois calls on Secret Service to make public security

ACLU of Illinois calls on Secret Service to make public security plans for NATO summit by end of the day on Monday

says previous agreement on free expression at McCormick Place should be respected

Chicago – Seeking to protect the “effective exercise of First Amendment expressive activities” during the upcoming NATO meeting in Chicago, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois today asked the United States Secret Service to release its security plan for the area surrounding McCormick Place by the end of the day on Monday, April 23. Specifically, the ACLU asked the Secret Service to release specific details of the security perimeter and plan that it intends to maintain at McCormick Place during the NATO meeting.

The ACLU noted that McCormick Place currently operates under a federal court settlement agreement, from a 2003 ACLU of Illinois case, that regulates access to the facility by those wishing to engage in free expression during events at the facility. The agreement that resolved the ACLU case, Albrecht v. Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, mandates that at least one person be permitted at every entrance to McCormick Place in order to distribute leaflets and creates outdoor group expressive areas near McCormick Place where all forms of expressive activity is permitted.

The ACLU of Illinois letter, sent on Wednesday, April 18, notes that conversations with the Secret Service leads the ACLU to conclude that the security perimeter is likely to include the entrances and outdoor areas protected by the free speech areas and that persons not credentialed for the NATO meetings “will not be allowed to enter within the security perimeter, including groups and individuals seeking to engage in protected expressive activities, even if they are willing to go through the same security as the media.”

“The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the operators of McCormick Place, made an agreement enforceable by the federal courts that they would provide access to those engaged in expressive activities to attendees of events at the facility,” said Harvey Grossman, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois. “We need to know if the Authority and the Secret Service are planning to violate that agreement, their justifications for doing so and what alternatives for communication they are willing to provide to those seeking to engage NATO attendees.” If the circumstances justify court intervention, we need to proceed swiftly to protect the First Amendment rights of demonstrators.

“It is time for the Secret Service to release their plan.”

The ACLU letter also request information on any limitations on speech or association outside the security perimeter. Based on discussions with federal officials, it seems likely that large groups will be limited in their ability to gather even on the outside of the security perimeter. The ACLU specifically asks the Secret Service to specify where large groups will be allowed to assemble near McCormick.

“We have been in discussions with the Secret Service for many months all the while waiting for the release of the federal government’s security plan for this event,” added the ACLU’s Grossman. “To ensure that free speech and free expression are preserved and protected during the NATO meetings, the government needs to make their plans known now.

Download a copy of the letter sent by the ACLU of Illinois to the Secret Service.

Rahm Vs. Tom Morello and Nurses United

by Abby Zimet

Morello at Occupy SXSW in Austin earlier this year:

The city of Chicago has yanked the permit ( for a National Nurses United march to Daley Plaza during the NATO summit after rocker and activist Tom Morello, formerly of Rage Against the Machine, joined the line-up ( Organizers charged the city is trying to "marginalize" the nurses, who are calling for a Wall Street transaction tax, but Morello insisted, "We won't be silenced and we won't be stopped."

"Chicago is my hometown and the mayor is making me feel mighty unwelcome... If Rahm Emanuel is so afraid of my popularity in Chicago maybe I should run against him in the next election. See you in the streets."

National Nurses United: Still We March

by Jake Olzen

The past couple of weeks have been something of a roller-coaster for National Nurses United and it all culminates today with the first major march and rally in what is expected to be a weekend of protest in Chicago. But it was a fight to get even there. Last Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his administration announced that the National Nurses United (NNU) protest against austerity measures that benefit NATO, the G8, and other elites would not be allowed to end its May 18 rally in Daley Plaza. The anti-NATO-G8 protest—billed as “a rally to tax Wall Street and heal America” — will likely draw thousands into the Loop on a workday afternoon and, as such, was threatened to be marginalized to Grant Park’s Butler field, according to NNU organizers.

NNU Midwest Director, Jan Rodolfo, RN, speaking at a press conference last Thursday morning, spoke on the union’s plans to file for injunctive relief in federal court rather than succumb to the city’s demands of either to accept the permit changes to the route or have it rescinded entirely. The city gave the union two days to make a decision. Organizers and counsel decided to pursue legal avenues to assert their right to protest, but would rally in Grant Park if their legal challenge failed.

“The city wants to push us aside to Petrillo Bandshell, [in Grant Park],” said Rodolfo, “rather than have us march into the heart of downtown Chicago to Daley Plaza, clearly a center of symbolic protest. We will not be silent. We did not cancel our event when the G8 decided to hide at Camp David. We are not going to cancel our event now.”

Amidst the widespread outcries and protests on behalf of the NNU, the city reversed its decision earlier this week.

National Nurses United, with more than 170,000 registered nurses, is the largest nursing union in the country and allied with other unions across the globe — many of whom have expressed outrage at the Emanuel administration’s last-minute decision to change the permit conditions. Their event is shaping up to be quite the kick-off event to the NATO Summit as they advocate for a “Robin Hood tax” on Wall Street.

While Occupy Chicago and other groups have a week’s worth of events planned, the National Nurses United march — featuring Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello — promises to be the first mass gathering of protesters against next weekend’s NATO summit.

The city had cited the addition of Morello to the rally line-up as the reason for the change in permit status. But what the city should really be worried about is not the handful of well-known musicians, journalists, activists and other pseudo-celebrities of the left drawing large crowds. Rather, the Emanuel administration should worry about the way many movements are converging under the banner of resisting NATO-G8 policies.

The press conference, hosted by Occupy Chicago, included an impressive lineup of organizers and spokespersons united against the NATO summit, with representatives from the anti-war movement (CANG8, IVAW, and Network for a NATO Free Future) along with supporters from labor, independent media and community groups. This showing of solidarity is a force to be reckoned with, as days of action for education, the environment, immigration reform, economic justice, counter-summits, popular assemblies, concerts, marches and rallies will consume Chicagoans and visitors from across the globe for more than ten days.

Mainstream media is predicting smaller numbers of protesters filling the streets of Chicago than if the G8 summit would have remained in the city. But such an assessment is premature. The Obama Administration’s decision to move the G8 meetings was seen by many as victory for the converging economic justice and anti-war movements made possible by the Occupy movement.

Furthermore, the focus on NATO, in the words of CANG8 organizer Joe Iosbaker, “as the armed wing of the one percent,” combines the 99 percent meme of economic justice and anti-austerity protests with the kind of anti-militarism that made Dr. King’s prophetic condemnation of capitalism, racism, and militarism so volatile for the vital interests of the oligarchy. While such an analysis may have once been relegated to radical cafés and Marxists’ FBI dossiers, it is becoming a commonplace occurrence in occupations and dinner tables across the country as the dots between austerity and militarism are getting connected.

Everyday, more organizations and people are endorsing the NATO protests and planning to join in. Across the country, buses are being booked and church halls and couches filled as people are realizing just how historic of a moment this convergence is going to be. A number of protests have already occurred, including civil disobedience at the Obama campaign headquarters, immigration and foreclosure actions, and a Black Bloc FTP/Anti-Capitalist march on the Southside of Chicago.

NNU’s original plans for their protest was to focus on economic inequality and the G8 meetings. Now, the NNU and others are forced to broaden the scope of their analysis and protest to explain the connection between NATO and the G8 to their large constituencies. NNU’s commitment to protest at the NATO summits, and the allies they’ve found in their fight against the city, reflects the convergence — or spill over — across different movements that made the Seattle 1999 protests so well-attended and successful.

Administrative hurdles and legal challenges to impede the coming together of a real solidarity of interests — labor, environmental, economic, peace — while annoying, questionable, and unjust also reveals the emerging battleground between a movement, powerholders, and the public. So while National Nurses United are at their wits end with the Windy City’s bureaucracy, this is an unfolding drama that is just getting starting.

This work is licensed under a Share Alike 3.0 Creative Commons Attribution License

Jake Olzen is a member of the Kairos Chicago community and a graduate student at Loyola University in Chicago. He lives in the White Rose Catholic Worker.

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