Emanuel’s Incipient, Self-Engineered Train Wreck
One has to wonder whether Mayor Rahm Emanuel is actually trying to provoke a violent confrontation between police and demonstrators next May when both the G8 and NATO hold their international meetings here in Chicago. Maybe show the country what a really tough mother a ballet dancer can be.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote of his plan to massively increase fines for resisting peace officers—one of those catch-all crimes like “disorderly conduct”— to say nothing of deputizing almost anybody he wants as a “peace officer,” plus purchase all the surveillance and spying equipment he wants without going through traditional contract procedures.
Provocative? Threatening? You betcha.
Now he’s making things worse. Much worse.
He is asking for restrictions on marches and demonstrations that will be virtually impossible to adhere to under the circumstances. He wants to limit the duration of marches or demonstrations, require the organizers to provide one parade marshal for every 100 marchers, register all participating groups in advance and limit the decibels of sound that may emanate from loudspeakers or musical instruments.
This may sound reasonable to an extent, except for the fact that few if any of those issues are in the control or capability of the organizers of the G8/NATO protests. These events historically draw crowds from all over the world. No person or organization is in charge of all the protestors, nor can anyone predict how many people will show up, how many marshals will be required, who will or will not have a bullhorn or trumpet, how long it will take for everyone who has something to say to speak their piece nor how long it will take a crowd to march from the staging area to the site of the meetings.
In other words, he is building in failure to comply with the new laws and putting all the protestors at risk of arrest and huge fines. As Harvey Grossman of the ACLU and many others have pointed out, these tough restrictions will do little or nothing to actually keep potential demonstrators away or alter their behavior, but they will come very close to violating rights to speech and assembly. They are more likely to provoke bad behavior.
Consider: some of the city’s favorite gatherings, such as the St. Patrick’s Day and the Bud Billiken Day parades would violate most of the proposed ordinances. You may be shocked to hear there is an occasional drunk and disorderly celebrant of the former. If they let Irish revelers get away without massive fines or let a marching band break the sound barrier, the city would be guilty of unequal enforcement of the law and clearly would violate the First Amendment.
Or will Mayor Rahmbunctious crack down on St. Paddy, too?
He says he wants to protect the city from violence as well as protect people’s right to protest, but his actions contradict that goal. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, those who make peaceful protest impossible will make violent protest inevitable.
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer