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Alderman Seeks To Keep Police From Blocking Wireless Signals During Summits

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Ald. Ricardo Munoz

Ald. Ricardo Munoz, 22nd Ward (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — At the City Council meeting Wednesday, an alderman will propose police keep their hands off the controls of downtown cell phone signals during expected protests this spring.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, the NATO/G8 summit is coming to McCormick Place in May, and large protests are virtually guaranteed.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

But Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) wants to make sure Chicago Police do not kill cell phone signals during the protest as a way to keep demonstrators from passing along their plans via texting and social networking sites.

Wireless signals were cut off during a crackdown on democratic protests in Egypt, as well as during protests in San Francisco last year.

“We’re putting down a marker and saying, this has happened in other places and we don’t even want it considered here,” Munoz said.

Munoz said he has no indication that police are contemplating shutting down cellphone use or social media sites. And aides to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police Supt. Garry McCarthy say the leaders have no plans to put any restrictions on social media or other communications.

But Chicago has a checkered history of dealing with protests. Most infamously, many demonstrators, as well as reporters and passersby, were beaten by Chicago Police officers outside the Democratic National Convention in 1968, in what has been popularly called a “police riot.”

Many Chicagoans sided with police at the time of the convention, and as recently as two years ago, some retired officers held a ceremony in which those who were working during the convention were honored as “the only thing that stood between Marxist street thugs and public order.”

But now, memories of the 1968 convention are stoking the rhetoric of some protesters who plan to come to Chicago for the NATO/G8 Summit. A notice posted earlier this month by the Vancouver-based Adbusters Culturejammers reads in part, “And this time around we’re not going to put up with the kind of police repression that happened during the Democratic National Convention protests in Chicago, 1968 … nor will we abide by any phony restrictions the City of Chicago may want to impose on our first amendment rights.”

Meanwhile, just last week, the city proposed a $6.2 million settlement with protesters who were arrested or detained by police during a 2003 demonstration against the Iraq War.

More than 800 protesters accused Chicago Police officers of arresting people en masse without cause, after officers allowed them to shut down Lake Shore Drive during the evening rush, then arrested them without giving them a notice to disperse or leave.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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