The city of Chicago, at the behest of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has taken rigorous steps to ensure enforcement of laws in anticipation of protests during the G8 and NATO summits that will take place in Chicago during May. But protesters are showing little fear in response.
The Mayor now has the ability to permanently install surveillance equipment, deputize federal law enforcement officers from the FBI, ATF, DOJ, as well as state and county police, and even hire private contractors for independent security thanks to a new ordinance that passed the City Council in mid-January.
“I think the city and the mayor have created a circumstance that is unnecessary,” said Ed Yohnka, the director of communications for the Illinois ACLU on Friday.
He said it would have been a better idea for the city to converse about the notion of free expression and encourage it.
“I think what is vexing and is troubling is that there was this sort of hysteria that was built around this, that caused people to overreact and the administration contributed to that with these 'get tough' ordinances,” said Yohnka.
Emanual said in a press release after the ordinance granting him greater security powers was passed, “Working collaboratively with our federal partners, we will provide public safety services for residents and visitors while fulfilling our obligation to protect the public and enforce the laws of the city.”
Meanwhile, AdBusters, the anti-consumerist magazine that put out the call to Occupy Wall Street, has recently released a tactical briefing asking their supporters to Occupy Chicago on May 1. They’re calling it the “Showdown in Chicago” and calling for over 50,000 people to attend.
“This time around we’re not going to put up with the kind of police repression that happened during the Democratic National Convention protests in Chicago, 1968 … nor will we abide by any phony restrictions the City of Chicago may want to impose on our first amendment rights,” States AdBusters’ “tactical briefing.”
Protesters and journalists that have been covering the movement were discussing the call to Occupy Chicago at a crowded sandwich shop in Washington DC on Wednesday.
Sam Jewler, an Occupy DC media group member, called Emanuel a fascist in the way that he’s handled Occupy Chicago. In October, police arrested over 300 protesters for attempting to establish a camp at Grant Park. Despite this, Jeweler said protesters wouldn’t be deterred.
“I think it will be bigger than Occupy Congress,” said Jewler, in reference to the DC gathering on January 17 that attracted over 1,000 Occupy protesters.
Michael Patterson, a particularly vociferous DC protester, said “This will be our Saratoga.” He emphasized the importance of protesting a gathering of the leaders of the most powerful governments and most powerful military alliance in the world.
Luke Rudkowski, a videographer that has gained a following as an activist, said he’d be heading to Chicago to film the protests. Rudkowski has covered and participated in other protests around the world. In 2009, he was in Pittsburgh for the G20 conference of finance ministers and central bank governors.
“I can’t even tell you the respect I lost for humanity there,” said Rudkowski. He said he was pepper-sprayed, beaten and held for half a day shackled in a bus with other protesters. His videos on YouTube from the event show officers using an LRAD sound cannon and him and others being quickly surrounded by police while protesting in a park.
Journalists coming to cover the protests also have to deal with an outdated Illinois law that states it’s a felony to audiotape police activity on public streets or in public parks.
Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick wrote a long article about the law. She noted that Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told a panel at Loyola University that he endorses video and audio recording of police.
“There’s no arguments when you can look at a videotape and see what happened.” Said McCarthy at the panel.
Tim Pool, a livestream journalist that gained notoriety during Occupy Wall Street, said he will be streaming the protests in Chicago.
“There’s going to be cameras everywhere,” said Pool, who didn’t worry about being singled out by police.
However, Occupy Chicago livestreamer Keilah Becker said she had a run-in with police over the law on Jan. 29. She said she was streaming an arrest during a march when a female police officer came behind her and took her phone. Becker said the officer cancelled her video and didn’t save it to the UStream servers. When the officer asked her what she was doing, Becker told her she was recording what happened around her.
“[The officer] told me I was talking myself into a felony charge,” said Becker. Although eventually the officer relented and gave the phone back, said Becker.
When told of this incident, Yonkah said, “The unfortunate thing is that as of this moment the Illinois law that makes it a felony to audiotape police activity is still in place.”
Questions sent to the Chicago Police regarding the enforcement of this law and the plan for policing the protest were not returned.
However, with the city’s strong stance against Occupy Chicago in October and the new powers granted to the Mayor, it would seem that police appear ready for a showdown with protesters in May.