Future of Chicago Media Action protests at risk with new proposed Chicago city ordinance

Posted by Mitchell - January 12, 2012 (entry 683)

Chicago is scheduled to host the summits of both the NATO and the G8 in May 2012. Since 1999 when civil society protests shook the G8 at Cologne, Germany, the G8 have been targeted by worldwide protests and the G8 have responded not by addressing legitimate grievances or deflating arguments, but instead by holding the same summits in increasingly remote locales. It's long been rumored that Chicago was slated to host the G8 in 2004, but in the wake of a massive protest on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive highway adjacent to downtown which got on CNN, the G8 instead went to Sea Island, Georgia -- a remote island miles off the coast of Georgia accessible only by helicopter.

But the G8 apparently thought that visible public protest (at least visible in the corporate media -- it never went away) went into terminal decline, so they (or somebody) went ahead and scheduled in June 2011 to bring the G8 into Chicago, before the rise and prominence of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which probably wasn't even imagined yet. So now, locked in to a situation in a city that's certainly not Sea Island, and facing widespread and growing discontent that has captured widespread public awareness (even in the corporate media), officials in Chicago are apparently responding the only way they can -- making it much harder to hold public protest.

The latest back-and-forth on this is a proposed rewrite of the Chicago ordinance regarding public displays of political protest, which would redefine "resisting arrest" to include passive resistance (like going limp, as many activists commonly do), increasing the range of fines (fat lot of good that will do; many protesters can't afford current fines), requiring $1 million dollars of liability insurance per protest (maybe the 1% can pay for the insurance), registering with the city at least one week in advance (assuming the city grants a permit), requiring one marshal for every 100 protesters in attendance (note to officials: protests don't have RSVPs), and -- particularly relevant to Chicago Media Action -- imposing all of these requirements on sidewalk protests.

Chicago Media Action has held a number of protest actions over the years, which have never been on the scale of the massive street protests against the Iraq war or those staged by Occupy Chicago, but which have nevertheless shown their value, raised awareness, and inspired others to action. And frankly, we fear that these added restrictions would adversely affect our ability to carry out public actions, which is why Chicago Media Action opposes this rewrite. (We have learned that a revision to the ordinance is slated for release on Wednesday. January 12th; we'll see things improve or not.)

Nevertheless, if you live in Chicago, we encourage you to contact your Alderman insisting him or her to vote against this ordinance, and attend the council hearings on January 17th and 18th, 2012, which will take up the ordinance for debate. They're located at:

10 AM, Tuesday, January 17 in the City Council Chambers, 121 N. LaSalle Street, 2nd floor
1 PM, Tuesday, January 17 in Room 201A, 121 N. LaSalle Street.
AM, Wednesday, January 18 in the City Council Chambers, 121 N. LaSalle Street, 2nd floor

Remember, the rights you help save might be your own.

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