Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (photo: lloyd89)

The Chicago Tribune has an article posted that indicates what one largely expected would happen with the NATO/G8 meetings: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would like tighter restrictions for protesting during the meetings that will be happening in May of 2012 at McCormick Place.

Hal Dardick and Kristen Mack report:

Beyond the reduced spending oversight by the City Council, Emanuel also wants aldermen to double the maximum fine to $1,000 for protesters charged with resisting or obstructing a police officer, as well as those helping arrested protesters to escape custody. The minimum fine would soar to $200, which would be a $175 increase.

Emanuel also wants to prevent people from entering public parks and beaches before 6 a.m., two hours later than now allowed. They would continue to close at 11 p.m.

And loud noise, amplified sound and music at parades, athletic events and public assemblies would be allowed only between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Rules on the use of sidewalks and streets also would be tightened.

Emanuel’s desire to up the fine for protesters charged with resisting or obstructing a police officer is significantly troubling. Of course, there will be, in any situation, a handful of people who do resist arrest. But as the public has witnessed by watching video or reading firsthand reports on Occupy protests, “resisting or obstructing a police officer” can usually be charged against any protester. Police are adept at crafting explanations to justify such charges. Reflexively recoiling as an officer touches you can be “resisting arrest.” Going limp and waiting for the cops to move your hands and body to make the arrest is sometimes “resisting arrest.”

Also, increasing the fines for helping protesters escape custody is troubling. First of all, I don’t know what this would exactly entail. I attempted to research instances where protesters had been fined for “helping protesters escape custody” and can find nothing. This isn’t a real thing that police forces often have to deal with when handling demonstrations.

I asked Joe Iosbaker, a lead organizer for the NATO/G8 Working Group, what he thought this meant. From his experience on picket lines, at antiwar marches, etc, he suggested the city may be thinking about instances where police move in and grab someone for an arrest and then a group of demonstrators circle the police and chant, “Let them go! Let them go! Let them go!” He added they may be threatening people who oppose the police arresting someone with fines.

The restrictions related to public parks and sound amplification devices further suggest Emanuel intends to suppress the 99%. These restrictions would definitely make it impossible for there to be any sort of Occupy NATO/G8 encampment if that was planned by citizens.

Iosbaker notes the Working Group has no plans for “occupying” the meetings and setting up a 24/7 encampment but Emanuel is trying to cover all bases before NATO and the G8 come to Chicago.

For the past months, the Working Group has been relentlessly campaigning for the city to grant permits for at least two marches and rallies during the meetings. The city has denied the permits. Now, in “emergency fashion,” Emanuel would like the City Council to pass an ordinance that gives Emanuel blanket power to suppress freedom of assembly and speech during the meetings as well as the authority to spend Chicago taxpayers’ money as he pleases on the meetings that he hopes will bring the city of Chicago great prestige.

This call for the city council to respond urgently is but another chapter in the saga of a city government that has suggested protesting leads to violence, refused to meet with NATO/G8 Working Group members to form some kind of agreement around permits for rallies or marches, and denied permits. The city wants to make it clear to Chicago residents and anyone in the country that dares to come to the city to protest that you can come and express dissent but you do so at your own risk.

Emanuel utters platitudes about how his goal during the meetings will be to “protect free speech” and “keep the peace.” Those who have been paying attention to Occupy protests, however, understand Emanuel is just another Democratic mayor like Portland Mayor Sam Adams or Oakland Mayor Jean Quan who is using “keeping the peace” or public safety as a pretext to impose restrictions on citizens’ rights to protest.

He states, “People have the right to express themselves, and they will…I also have the responsibility to enforce the law, which we will. Those two are not in conflict, and they won’t be in conflict.” How mendacious.

The reality is Emanuel is seeking to impose his will upon the city council and force them to take “emergency” action so he can oversee the meetings with great executive power. What he wants, the increase in fines and extension of park curfews, will invite conflict. There is little evidence that they are necessary to maintain security either except for the fact that Mayor Rahm Emanuel said so and the city and the people of Chicago will be expected to nod and approve.

The Working Group will be meeting this Sunday, December 18, with academics, activists, religious leaders and trade unionists, etc, to plan a response to Emanuel’s push for “emergency” action by the city. They plan to pressure aldermen and form alliances with sympathetic city council members.