CHICAGO (CBS) — Which carries more weight, First Amendment rights or closing time at Chicago’s parks? Attorneys for dozens of Occupy Chicago protestors arrested in Grant Park last fall want a judge to answer that question.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports on the protesters’ fight in court after 130 people were arrested for refusing to leave the park after repeated warnings from police, following a large march and rally downtown last October.
The protesters say their First Amendment right was trampled upon and their attorneys said it was all because Mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted to look tough to the world.
One by one, Occupy Chicago supporters filed into the Daley Center Plaza on Wednesday to defend their round-the-clock right to protest without being arrested, like 130 people were five months ago after an Occupy Chicago rally.
When the protesters refused to leave Grant Park after the park closed to the public at 11 p.m., police warned them several times to leave before making arrests about three hours later.
Protester Nate Goldbaum said, “I made a conscious decision that I wouldn’t be evicted.”
In all, 90 of those charged with violating the city’s curfew ordinance argued their arrests violated their First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble, even overnight, and they want the charges dismissed.
Defense attorney Tom Durkin said, “All you can do in Chicago is protest for 17 hours and this is the way we want to show off we’re a world class city? It takes us back to looking like idiots.”
City attorneys have argued the arrests weren’t a ban on speech and were not criminal in nature.
Defense attorney Robert Stainthorpe criticized the city for, “Making the protestors be arrested, taken to jail, fingerprinted, mug shots, conditions of bail set, go to criminal court; now the city’s turned around and said, ‘Oh, it’s not really criminal, it’s just civil. That’s really outrageous.”
Durkin went a step further, calling the arrests a strong-arm tactic orchestrated by one man, for one reason.
“This was Mayor Rahm Emanuel … being Mr. Tough Guy, to show the world that they could come to G8 and NATO (summits). It’s as simple as that,” Durkin said.
But a spokesperson for the city’s Law Department said the arrests at Grant Park had nothing to do with the NATO and G8 summits scheduled for May.
A Cook County judge did not rule on whether the charges should be dismissed against the protesters who were arrested. He wants more information.
When the judge rules, it could have interesting implications for how Chicago police will handle protesters when they come to town in three months for the NATO and G8 summits.