Chicago Police Seek to Learn From Past Protest Mistakes

This spring, the city of Chicago will fill up with international dignitaries, and with them will come protesters—perhaps more than the city has ever seen. The city will play host to both NATO and the G-8 summit, two entities that usually draw a crowd. In preparation, it seems, the city is looking at ways to learn from past protest-mistakes and keep things quiet this time around.

In 2003, according to the Chicago Tribute, police arrested more than 500 people in an impromptu Iraq War demonstration, leading a federal judge to call the city’s protest rules an “idiocy”.

During that demonstration, protestors were corralled into a single area and then were arrested on a massive scale, without being given the opportunity to comply with orders to leave. Judge Richard Posner rejected the city’s attempts to have two civil lawsuits involving hundreds of plaintiffs dismissed.

Posner said the bad permit rules and bad decisions from police led to mass confusion. He said that police, “perhaps in some panic, resorted to mass arrests without justification.”

The judge’s rulings have helped spur some action by the city to amend those policies that govern protest permits and impromptu demonstrations. But, some say Mayor Rahm Emanuel is using “fear mongering” to spur support for drastic changes that are reportedly unnecessary. According to NPR, some even believe he is staging an attack on the constitutional right to protest.

What is it that Emanuel wants? Well, for starters he would like the authority to spend money during the international meetings without getting any approval from the City Council. He would also like the Chicago police to have the power to deputize out of state law enforcement. Finally, he would like to place restrictions on where and when protests can occur.

He reportedly wants to cover all of the bases—to prepare for any possible occurrence. “But foreseeing every constitutional contingency is probably impossible,” says Alex Keefe with NPR.

Some are concerned that all of this talk will only spur more active protests. Protestors don’t want to be told about restrictions being placed on their right to assemble and protest, it may only makes things more volatile.

Typically, arrests made during protests like this are for disorderly conduct and related charges. It’s not unusual for people to be arrested and charged when they weren’t doing anything wrong. The 2003 Iraq War protests proved this. Charges in nearly all 500 arrests on that day were later dismissed.

You can’t always be so lucky as to have your criminal charges dropped as part of a massive mistake by the police department. In many or most cases, the help of a local criminal defense attorney is crucial in getting a positive end result.

If you are charged with disorderly conduct or something similar, we may be able to help. Contact us today to discuss the details and what options you have.


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