Much anticipation is swirling around the upcoming G8 and NATO summits as city officials, law enforcement and protesters have already begun gearing up for the events planned for May. Yesterday, Occupy Rogers Park and Occupy the South Side issued a citywide call to action against Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed ordinance imposing harsher fines and rules for protests and demonstrations. The call to action is set to last until January 18, when the plan is expected to go up for city council vote.
The two Occupy groups also sent a letter to Chicago aldermen voicing concerns about the proposal they are calling the "Sit Down and Shut Up Ordinance." Meanwhile, law enforcement appears to be preparing for a battle.
The letter, sent all 50 of Chicago's aldermen, accuses the mayor's plan of being an "attack on public protests" that will have far-reaching effects well beyond the summits planned for May:
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.
On the Occupy Chicago web site, the movement also details how Emanuel's proposal could play out, if passed, and muffle the voices of protesters:
- Raising fines for “resisting arrest” up to $1000. “Resisting arrest” in Chicago does include passively going limp, so no more passive resistance.
- Close all public spaces overnight. Sorry homeless, go sleep in the water. No occupations, no physical presence wherever an officer can get at you. Your home is probably next.
- Need a permit to even gather on the sidewalk. No picketing, no union activities, no soap-boxing, no walking on the sidewalk to avoid getting arrested holding a public space.
- Head of police can deputize anyone he wants, in a no-bid contracting process. This means we'll be facing a bunch of untrained rent-a-cops armed with tazers and pepper spray, payed for with our tax dollars. No-bid promotes cronyism, so some friends of Rahm will no doubt be providing the straw deputies. Rahm is empowered to hire at-will, with no input from City Council (aldermen).
- City gets to dictate what kind of gear (loudspeakers, drums, etc) you can bring, and you may face fines or arrest if you deviate on what they allow. Requires you file a week in advance for a permit.
- Protest organizers must make themselves liable for any damages, and have to reimburse city for police-incitement to violence.
- All-around making protest permits much harder to get, pretty much guaranteeing that anyone with a job and a family will not have time to organize or protest for their rights. The amount of red-tape to cut through will be quadrupled, and this kind of bureaucracy forces activists to have their own bureaucracies. Pretty hard to do when you're a volunteer movement with no money or full-time staff.
- Protests restricted to 8am-10pm. Going after hours may get you arrested.
Law enforcement is getting revved up and prepared for the summits in their own way. Earlier today, the Illinois State Crime Commission (ISCC) sent out a newsletter offering "Hard Core Police Training in Preparation for the G-8/NATO summit to be held in Illinois", including "combat stick fighting." The upcoming 'Filipino Martial Arts Stick Combat Workshop' is open to all law enforcement officers and is not being paid for with taxpayer dollars, according to the ISCC news bulletin. Apparently, this is not the first training session made available to law enforcement by ISCC in preparation for the G8 and NATO summits — nor will it be the last.
"This is the second in an ongoing series of specialized training for law enforcement in preparation for the G-8/NATO summits, needed because there may or may not be money in the local municipal, county or state budgets for training and required technologies," reads the ISCC bulletin. "The ISCC gun team will provide this free hard-core training for all interested officers."
This type of training could be typical, but the fact that it is being offered specifically for the summits illustrates the tension surrounding the events and associated demonstrations. With the harsher regulations, fines and penalties that could come with the passage of Emanuel's proposal and the seemingly hyped-up mentality of law enforcement when it comes to protesters in anticipation of the G8 and NATO summits, one cannot help but wonder what the long-term ramifications all of this will have on the ability for Chicagoans to come together and make their collective voices heard against policies they deem unfair.