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Updated 01/17/12 – 3:54 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — For the second time since moving to increase fines and restrictions on protests for the upcoming G8 and NATO Summits, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has backed off.
On Tuesday, he eliminated proposals to increase the fines for resisting arrest or obstructing a police officer. He had already agreed to reduce fines and other proposed changes related to city ordinances on public demonstrations.
As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, the Mayor wasn’t even there when the latest changes were revealed at a City Council committee meeting.
Emanuel was out christening a renovated CTA station, letting the aldermen and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy explain the about-face and praise him for it.
Most aldermen didn’t find out about the mayor’s change of mind until Tuesday’s committee hearing, which was well-attended by those upset about the increased fines and tightened restrictions on protests Emanuel originally planned for May’s twin summits.
“A lot of people who were concerned about the package of ordinances were clearly focused on the increase in fines for resisting arrest,” Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said. “Now that reason for opposing the ordinance has been removed.”
But the maneuver didn’t completely satisfy those in the gallery. Several protesters had to be escorted out after disruptions.
Protest organizers suggested there would be resistance if the City Council approves other security measures pushed by the mayor. City Hall is still pushing to give McCarthy the power to deputize police officers from other towns to make arrests here during the summits.
Another change would also give the mayor power to enter into summit-related contracts without city council approval.
Protest organizer Andy Thayer said if the council approves what he calls rights infringing measures, then “all bets are off” – suggesting more intense protests.
But police officials downplayed the protesters’ apparent threat to resist the new security measures, WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports
McCarthy shrugged off Thayer’s comment.
“OK, well, that’s what Mr. Thayer said. I mean, I’m not going to even comment on it,” McCarthy said. “I’m not willing to bet on anything that’s going to happen. What’s going to happen is that we are going to provide a safe environment to the best of our ability.”
The changes from the mayor’s office on Tuesday also did not satisfy all the aldermen who leaned the other way and worried about keeping the peace during summits which have prompted violent demonstrations in other cities.
But in the end, the ordinance sailed through on a voice vote.
“I don’t think it’s gonna be the chaotic scenes that we’ve seen in the past,” McCarthy said. “Law enforcement has gotten smarter and evolved as to how we handle these events over the course of time and that’s why I’m telling you we’re going to be in good shape.”
McCarthy’s confidence, as well as the city’s experience in dealing with the Occupy Chicago protestors might have convinced the mayor that this was another opportunity to win over council members who’d once feared his reign would be a repeat of the Daley years.
“Under Mayor Daley, there was oftentimes, too often, a ‘My way or the highway’ approach where, at some point because of defensiveness or what you, they just shut off any kind of thoughtful input,” Moore said. “And here, I’ve been very pleased with the fact that my input, my suggestions have been taken seriously and some of them have been incorporated into the new amendments.”
For his own part, Emanuel said “I haven’t changed the objective, I’ve listened to them and I’ve made the kinds of changes that are necessary.”
The full City Council considers the new administration powers on Wednesday.
Other measures included in the mayor’s plan are: installing more surveillance cameras; closing parks and beaches until 6 a.m.; increasing parade restrictions; and raising fees for such events.