Chicago/ Politics & Govt
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Published on May 03, 2024
Activists Sue Chicago Mayor's Office, Claim City Unprepared for DNC ProtestsSource: Unsplash / {James Eades}

Activists are hitting the streets and the courts in Chicago as tensions escalate ahead of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Bodies Outside of Unjust Laws, a coalition advocating for LGBTQ+ and women's reproductive rights, filed a lawsuit against Mayor Brandon Johnson's administration on Thursday, claiming the city is both stifling their constitutional rights and ill-prepared for the expected protests, according to a Chicago Tribune report. The group, represented by the ACLU of Illinois, says their permit to march near the hotels housing DNC delegates was wrongfully denied.

Joined by several social justice groups, these activists allege that the denial of protest permits near the DNC suggests the city, despite receiving a hefty $75 million from the federal government for convention security, is not up to the task of managing large-scale demonstrations. Some Chicago officials have asserted readiness, but the Tribune quotes Ed Yohnka of the ACLU warning that "the city has not created a clear, transparent plan." The ACLU argues the permit denials are a breach of constitutionally guaranteed rights, as they prohibit activists from reaching their intended audience of DNC delegates.

The city has responded to denied permits with an alternative parade route in Grant Park, far from the United Center, the main convention site. However, the activists reject this alternative, emphasizing the importance of visibility and proximity to delegates for effective protest. Andy Thayer, an organizer with Bodies Outside of Unjust Laws, expressed this sentiment in a Block Club Chicago interview, saying, "We were the first group to apply for a permit. We gave the city more than eight months’ notice of our plans."

Complicating matters is an ordinance passed by the City Council that restricts various items—ranging from laptops to larger bags—within the DNC’s security footprint. Critics say this allows for broad discretion by the police to determine what is hazardous. Thayer, disillusioned by Mayor Johnson's stance, said, "A government for the people … it’s extremely disappointing. And I say that as someone who voted for Mayor Johnson," he told Block Club Chicago. With the city's alternative route dismissed as inadequate, the coalition plans to march with or without the city's authorization.

Moving forward, the DNC is being closely monitored by federal and local law enforcement agencies, with the Secret Service taking charge inside the main venues and Chicago police maintaining control outside.