Have We Lost the Right To Protest?


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)–Weekend Contributor

In the years since the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War began, there have been some sizeable protests and demonstrations, but not quite to the level seen during the Vietnam War.  We have seen several significant protests during various economic and political summits and conventions in the United States and around the world, but they have been met with severe police crackdowns.  The Occupy Movement is one example of a long-term protest that on more than one occasion suffered through severe police restrictions and in some cases, brutal police tactics.

In response to the 9/11 attacks, the United States passed so-called anti-terror legislation that many claim have usurped and restricted personal liberties.  However, several  states also jumped on that bandwagon and passed their own anti-terror legislation. The State of Illinois is one of the states that passed its own anti-terror legislation and the use of that legislation prior to the NATO Summit meetings held in Chicago on May 20 and 21st, in 2012 is currently being litigated right now in Chicago in a criminal case brought against 3 protestors known as the NATO 3 under the Illinois anti-terror statute.

“The state of Illinois’ domestic terrorism statute, just one example of scores of state-level terrorism laws passed in the aftermath of 9/11, may fail its first challenge in Illinois if the details emerging in the ongoing trial of Brian Church, Brent Betterly and Jared Chase, the so-called “NATO 3,” continue to paint a picture that falls far short of the state’s alleged terrorism charges.

As the trial of the NATO 3 moves into its second week, the facts being presented seem to strain the Cook County prosecutor’s case, which alleges the three young defendants plotted attacks on high-profile targets, including President Obama’s campaign headquarters and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house, during the May 2012 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit.” Truth-Out

While the issues of the constitutionality of the Illinois Statute and the alleged lack of facts supporting the charges are important, my biggest concern is just why does a state have to have their own anti-terror statute and the radical and possibly unconstitutional methods employed by the police to infiltrate protest groups.  These methods may run afoul of the Constitution because their intent is to disrupt and prevent protests from happening in the first place.

“The trial began with testimony from Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer, Nadia Chikko before Cook County Judge Thaddeus Wilson. Later in the week, officer Mohmet Uygun took the stand. Known to the Occupy Chicago community as “Gloves” and “Mo,” the two officers represent a critical touch-point of the NATO 3 case: They went undercover during the two months prior to the NATO summit to conduct surveillance on Church, Betterly and Chase, obtaining some of the audio-recorded evidence presented in court. Defense attorneys are expected to argue the NATO 3 are victims of police entrapment, insisting that the undercover officers, posing as activists, persuaded the men to discuss carrying out attacks and allow or participate in the assembly of Molotov cocktails at the apartment they were staying in.

Defense attorneys have emphasized the CPD intelligence unit’s spying operation in the run-up to the 2012 NATO summit, in which police infiltrated organizing meetings, activist events and listened in on conversations at popular hubs for Occupy activists, such as Chicago’s Heartland Café, in search of potential “violent anarchists,” who might use black bloc tactics. The undercover officers also took photographs of license plates to check for outstanding warrants on the individuals attending these public meetings or events. Testimony this week has also revealed that the police offered the defendants beer, including Chase, who was underage at the time. Chikko has testified she wasn’t specifically targeting anarchists, but listened in for suggestions of “planned criminal activity.”‘ Truth-Out

The anti-terror statute in play here is just one of the mechanisms utilized by the State and the City of Chicago to disrupt and discourage lawful protests and demonstrations prior to the NATO Summit.  The City of Chicago passed an ordinance prior to the Summit that required a $1 Million dollar liability insurance policy for all demonstrations and protests along with several other draconian measures.

Chicago Independent Media Center reports that the ordinance, as it stood the day before the vote, contains the following:

Non-violent civil disobedience could now carry a $200-$1000 fine, up from $25-$500, in addition to more to other, more typical misdemeanor charges; Virtually every street protest in the downtown would be designated a “large parade,” requiring $1 million liability insurance and for organizers to “agree to reimburse the city for any damage to the public way or to city property arising out of or caused by the parade”;

Large parade or not, organizers would be required to provide the city with “a description of any recording equipment, sound amplification equipment, banners, signs, or other attention-getting devices to be used in connection with the parade” at least a week in advance of the march; Every contingent in the march and the order in which they would appear would have to be registered at least a week in advance with the City; and,

Demonstration organizers would be required to have one marshal for every 100 participants.  Under a wholly new section of the municipal code (10-8-334), even gatherings on sidewalks, with no presence in the streets, would now be subject to demands that they get permits, giving the City extraordinary latitude to dictate what union and other pickets occur or get shut down by police action.

Allow the police Superintendent to deputize FBI, DHS, ATF, and DOJ employees as Chicago police officers.”‘ Truth-Out

It does not surprise me that the citizens of Chicago gave this ordinance a very descriptive and apt name.  They call it the Sit Down and Shut Up Ordinance!  I have to agree with the label.  This Chicago ordinance has been used to deter groups from protesting and exercising their First Amendment rights to peacefully demonstrate.  It was noted that the section of the ordinance that would have raised the amounts of the fines was deleted prior to the City Council approval of the ordinance.  Even with that section removed, how many small organizations can afford to obtain the insurance policy and why should they have to?

What Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is really telling the citizens of Chicago and anyone visiting the City to exercise their legal First Amendment rights is to Sit Down and Shut Up.  Doesn’t that sound like something Mayor Emmanuel would say.  How can a measure that makes it mandatory to get permits for even gathering on sidewalks to express your grievances past Constitutional muster?

If ordinances like the Sit Down and Shut Up ordinance in Chicago and similar anti-terror legislation in place in other cities and states, are allowed to stand, do we really have the “right” to protest anymore?  If a group has to obtain a costly liability insurance policy prior to exercising their First Amendment rights, how will any of us be able to stand up to city and police abuses? Are these out of control restrictions on the First Amendment constitutional?   Is it necessary for any State to enact its own Anti Terrorism statutes?  What do you think?


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25 thoughts on “Have We Lost the Right To Protest?”

  1. Yes, we have lost that right and many others. This loss occurred through the help of citizens who themselves silenced others for speaking truthfully of what the government was doing.

    The person who wrote this, told me to get off this blog because I was a tea party member. Of course I am not a tea party member, but even if I was, is that a reason to tall someone to get off this blog dedicated to free speech? No, it is not.

    Citizens, including many on this blog silenced and attacked those people who tried to warn of what was happening. The govt. could not have gotten as far as it has, IMO, without the willing complicity of Democrats who were more than happy to silence real analysis of what the govt. was doing. It will take the willing complicity of those same Democrats to work with truth tellers, instead of silencing us. It may be far too late. I am hoping it is not. But please, silencers, learn the lesson of the Milgram experiement. You were involved in and completely complicit in your own silencing of dissent. You were whipped up against the truth and readily attacked truth tellers. Have the courage to learn from that mistake, that in fact, you can be propagandized and you can turn of the truth. If you will learn this lesson, you will not repeat it.

  2. Dredd: think primary culpability lies with police “leadership” (many who are politicians not real cops) that refuse to provide annual training on how the Supremacy Clause makes the Bill of Rights the “supreme law of the land”.

    If this training were effectively provided by the leadership, rank and file officers would be focusing on “probable cause” or obtaining warrants instead of the very subjective terms like “anarchists”.

    How is complying with the laws and U.S. Constitution any form of anarchy, if the protesters are complying with the rules? If police chiefs, police commissioners and police unions provided proper Bill of Rights training to their subordinate officers, protesters may look less like anarchists and more like doing one’s civic duty participating in our constitutional democratic republic.

    Police leadership are the most culpable.

  3. The testimony in the NATO 3 trial has some incredible revelations about the mindset of the Chicago Government.

    It is quite retro, going back in time and getting stuck in an ancient rut.

    A rut unbecoming to modern freedom loving Americans.

    The undercover cop testified that the Chicago Police Department spies on coffee houses because they are known hangouts for anarchists.

    What that PD does not know is that coffee houses started in the lands of Islam and were central gathering places for discussing democracy.

    Sultans hundreds of years ago spied on coffee houses and found them cricitcal of government policies, and so went about the business of trying to rid the sultans of the menace.

    When coffee houses thereafter spread to England and France, some kings tried to suppress the coffee houses there.

    And then there was Chicago doing the same thing several hundred years later (A Great Danger to America From The Islamic World: Coffee Houses).

  4. It’s time for some Teddy Roosevelt “trust-busting”! The War on Terror has morphed into a War on Competition and War on Free Enterprise, using the government to protect and grow monopolies.

  5. the uber rich are scared but not of losing their money or even their lives.. they’re scared of losing the power they have spent hundreds of years and billions of dollars stealing….

    they’re scared because the people are beginning to wake up and realize the truth.

    they’re scared because some of their protective bunkers here on earth have been destroyed, because many of their plans have been thwarted, and certain things that were in place to enforce their one world government is falling apart and much more rapidly then they ever thought….

    information they never thought would get out has…. the truth about certain situations in history is out in the open… and the drastic steps they are and have taken aren’t working out to well for them anymore……..

  6. Robert Redford just put together a documentary of the Teeny Tiny Mayor trying to make him look presidential. He is a politician that needs to be contained. In other words, he needs to “sit down and shut up.”

  7. Raff,
    What is really going on is the super rich are scared. Not scared as in worrying about where the country is headed. Scared as in jumping at every noise, every bright light, every unknown person wandering past their property or wanting to shake hands. They spend untold millions of dollars on security. Some have security equal to a country’s president. They make the average survivalist look like the amateurs they are.

    They are scared for their lives and their money, and are prepared to be ruthless in protecting both.

  8. “Ain’t that America?” Land of the free and home of the silenced. It would appear that Illionois has learned a lot from Russian and other totalitarian regimes.

  9. Standing man protests seem apt.
    One person standing, three feet apart. Standing. En mass…
    I dare a fine for that.

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