FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS CONTACT: Eric Ruder, CANGATE / 773-398-3020 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Diverse Coalition to Denounce Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Assault on the Constitutional Rights of Chicagoans
Press conference planned for Tuesday, January 17, 9 am, City Hall ahead of planned City Council vote on January 18
CHICAGO—A coalition of unions, religious leaders, community organizations and other concerned citizens is set to condemn a package of ordinances proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that amounts to an all-out assault on the civil liberties of Chicagoans.The group will conduct a press conference on Tuesday, January 17, at 9:00 a.m. on the 2nd floor of City Hall (one hour before a budget committee hearing on the proposed ordinances).The new restrictions place onerous limits on the First Amendment right to free speech and assembly, including burdensome permit requirements for even small sidewalk protests, the threat of steep new fines and other provisions that are practically impossible to comply with. The upshot is that almost any organization or group of individuals that wishes to express dissent can quickly find themselves on the wrong side of the law and subject to arrest and fines.Though Emanuel initially claimed that the provisions were solely aimed at planned protests of the upcoming NATO/G8 summit in May, he later admitted that they would indeed be permanent, giving police sweeping new powers to crack down on protests of all sorts.
This is especially worrisome at a time when groups of all sorts—labor unions, community organizations, schoolteachers and health-care providers—are faced with the need to mobilize to defend public education and city services from the mayor’s budget axe.? ?And it sets up a situation that will give police sweeping powers to crack down on the First Amendment rights of the thousands of people expected to protest the NATO/G8 summit that will take place in Chicago, May 19-21.
“Human rights earned by years of struggle and hope must not be vanquished in a moment of fear,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson. “And so we march to preserve that which is intrinsic to the integrity of our nation and our self-worth. I appeal to the mayor to honor time-honored principles of our democracy. The right to fight for our rights is what democracy looks like. So long as our fight is nonviolent and transparent, our rights must be honored.”
“We teach our students that free speech, public protest and civic participation are the hallmarks of democracy in our nation,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen GJ Lewis. “The plan to restrict Chicagoan’s First Amendment rights and impose huge fines on those who dare to stand up for what they believe sends the wrong message to over 400,000 CPS students who’ve been taught our civil liberties exist so we might keep those entrust accessible and accountable.”
Emanuel is already responding to the outcry about his broadside against the right to dissent, according to Joe Iosbaker, an organizer with the Coalition Against NATO/G8 Agenda of War and Poverty (CANGATE).?“The tide of opposition to the Mayor’s assault on civil liberties is the reason that the city has granted our permit to march on May 19 during the summit where NATO will discuss its plans for war and the G8 will figure out how to further attack the living standards of working people,” said Iosbaker. “But we will keep bringing pressure to bear until the mayor stops trying to push through his ‘sit-down-and-shut-up’ ordinance that targets the right to dissent for all Chicagoans.”
“From the perspective of a nurse who was arrested while providing first-aid care to protestors, Mayor Emanuel’s aggressive treatment of peaceful protesters this past year has been disgraceful,” said registered nurse Martese Chism. “And with his proposed ordinance changes, he wants to further repress the 99 percent by attacking our constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.”
According to a statement by Occupy Chicago, the proposed ordinance changes contain a “a host of bureaucratic tools, created by and for the 1 percent 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 percent, 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.”
Jeff Frank with the National Lawyers Guild will also address the press conference to provide legal detail about the chilling effect of the proposed restrictions on the exercise of free speech.
Martin Luther King Jr. perfectly summed the grave concerns that the above groups have in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in 1963. “Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application,” wrote Dr. King. “For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.”
For this very reason, this broad coalition stands together, united, to demand that the city respect the basic civil liberties that generations have fought to preserve.
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