Chicago IL – In a surprise move Jan. 12, the City of Chicago granted permits to the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda (CANG8) for a rally and march on May 19. CANG8 is mobilizing against the summits of NATO and the G8 occurring in Chicago that weekend.
“Mayor Emanuel responded to public opinion, which clearly supported our right to protest against NATO’s wars and the poverty that the G8 is pushing onto working people through their cutbacks,” said Joe Iosbaker of CANG8. “It’s the only explanation that makes sense.”
The coalition had been building broad support for their demands for permits since June, 2011 when President Obama announced the summits of bankers, generals and heads of state of the wealthiest nations. CANG8 is planning a family-friendly demonstration to take their message to within sight and sound of the McCormick Place where the summits are scheduled.
Given with one hand, taken with the other?
However, the cover letters from the city that accompanied the permits threaten that they might be revoked. The cover letters state that Secret Service could “designate specific security zones or areas.”
This threat is very real. For months, the Chicago Police Department and Secret Service have been issuing “security assessments” to downtown schools, churches, businesses and cultural institutions saying that the protestors are so violent that everyone should leave the area during the events.
When anti-war activists first submitted an application for the Daley Plaza, it was denied with a memo that no permits would be granted for public assembly during the period of the summits. A public pressure campaign mounted by CANG8 compelled the city to backtrack on that as well.
Both of these reveal that the joint city-federal agency overseeing the summits want to stop protests from reaching the eyes and ears of the rich and powerful who will be at McCormick Place in May.
In response to the threat of a denial, Iosbaker responded, “The Secret Service should not try to take away what the city of Chicago has finally granted.”
Resistance to Emanuel’s Threatened Restrictions on Protests
The granting of the permits is set against a backdrop of growing opposition to the repressive moves of the mayor. Mayor Emanuel is demanding changes to city ordinances to make protests harder to organize and to threaten anyone who speaks up with enormous fines and police repression. He proposed these changes in mid-December and declared he wanted the city council to adopt them at their next possible meeting.
At first, the city council leaders lined up to say “yes” to the mayor, but a pressure campaign that drew in Occupy Chicago, SEIU, the Teachers Union and civil liberties advocates forced the politicians to reverse themselves. On Jan. 12, the mayor’s office was also met with a rebellion by alderpersons who, for the first time, have said “no” to Emanuel.
In describing how the granting of permits impacted on the debate in the city council, CANG8 activist Andy Thayer noted, "The issuance of this permit shows that the current ordinances, while not perfect, are more than adequate for large public events in our city, and that the mayor should rescind his proposed anti-protester ordinances.”
The city council is scheduled to vote on Emanuel's ordinance changes at its meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 18. Two committees of the city council are scheduled to discuss the changes on Jan. 17. CANG8 is calling for a national call in day to demand Emanuel stop his efforts to deny the right to protest.