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Activists Win Big Vs Daley Administration Over Right to March

GLN permalink posted February 12, 2009

Peace and immigration rights activists won big late Monday in circuit court when they defeated a City of Chicago emergency motion to put on hold a permit victory that the Chicago Anti-war and Immigrant Rights Coalition (CAIRC) had won in a lower court.

The means that after three attempts by the City of Chicago to thwart the organizing of the March 14 event, organizers can go ahead with the organizing of the 6th annual march on the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The event will be held as follows:

12 noon, Saturday, March 14th

Short rally at the corner of Marshall Blvd and Cermak Road, on the edge of Chicago's large Latino community in the Little Village neighborhood. Then march to the Pilsen neighborhood with a closing rally near the intersection of 18th Street, Blue Island and Loomis Street.

Monday's decision by the circuit court effectively rejected the latest ploy in a pattern of City of Chicago harassment of anti-war activists through permit denials and other legal entanglements. For example:

+++ During an earlier Administrative Law hearing, Department of Transportation Assistant Director Mike Simon noted that over his 9-year career at the DOT, he had processed approximately 18,000+ permit applications, of which he had rejected only 20 to 25. Of those 20 to 25 rejections, he testified that six or more were of applications submitted by anti-war organizers involved in the current effort to win a permit

+++ On the night the war started, Chicago police illegally surrounded and arrested over 800 protesters and passersby in the single largest mass arrest in Chicago history. All of the charges were later disposed of in a manner indicating innocence of the accused, and the whole incident, including injuries and deliberate destruction of protesters' property by the police, is subject of a class action lawsuit that will be going to trial soon;


+++ Arrests of anti-war organizers on bogus misdemeanor or wildly inflated felony charges, apparently aimed at intimidating people from exercising their 1st Amendment rights.

In early January activists in what later became known as CAIRC applied to hold a march in the city's Pilsen neighborhood on March 14th, roughly the 6th anniversary of the Iraq invasion. When the Daley administration didn't respond within the time required by its own parade permit ordinance, the activists assumed that they would automatically get the permit, as required under the ordinance.

Monday's court victory was just the latest round in a permit battle that saw the activists literally win a permit twice, only to lose it twice, only to now apparently win it for good.

The City of Chicago has rejected the parade permit applications for every march marking the anniversary of the Iraq war. This year they again tried to defeat the application -- but by rejecting it after the deadline required for the City's response. CAIRC was thus forced in mid-January to appeal to the City's administrative law courts, a forum in which plaintiffs rarely prevail. But prevail they did, and on January 28th Administrator Law Officer Jerome Prosser ruled that "the parade permit at issue must be granted."

But on February 1st the Chicago fought back again, suing the activists to overturn the Administrative Law Court's decision. On February 4th they served the activists with the suit and with an emergency motion demanding that the activists appear in court the next day. If granted, the emergency motion would have prevented CAIRC from going ahead with publicizing their March 14 protest, effectively gutting the victory they had won in the lower court and thwarting their 1st amendment right of speech and assembly.

While most of the activist defendants did appear court the next day, they did not have time to secure legal representation. At the hearing the Chicago pressed to have their emergency motion heard and adjudicated -- despite the activists lacking any professional legal representation -- but were rejected by Circuit Court Judge Sconza.

This past Monday, with good pro bono representation by attorneys Jeff Frank, Melinda Power, Jim Fennerty and Chris Kruger of the National Lawyers Guild, the City met its match. Besides savoring Monday's victory, Chicago peace and immigrant rights activists can now move full speed ahead to organize the March 14th protest.

CAIRC consists of more than 50 community organizations working for peace and immigrant rights. They were assisted by attorneys from the Chicago Chapter of National Lawyers Guild -- Jeff Frank, Melinda Power, Jim Fennerty and Chris Kruger. For more information about the March 14th protest and on-going civil liberties battles in Chicago, email CCAWR@aol.com


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