Chicago anti-war activists are waging a First Amendment battle in two courtrooms, the Chicago Tribune reported Feb. 3. In federal District Court, activists are seeking class-action status for a suit brought after police shut down a protest on Lake Shore Drive on March 20, 2003, the day the war on Iraq was launched. The case contends protesters were herded into an area cordoned off by riot police, and that hundreds were arrested without justification, sometimes with excessive force. Meanwhile, in a city courtroom yesterday, the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism appealed the denial of a permit to march again on this coming March 19 to mark the anniversary of the invasion. Coalition spokesman Andy Thayer said it is "essentially unconstitutional" to prohibit the right to protest on "hot-button issues." The city Transportation Department, in turn, denies that content is at issue, and says that the proposed march route would snarl traffic.
The city that put Mayday on the map with the 1886 Haymarket riot and shocked the world with violent repression of the 1968 Democratic Convention protests continues to be a battleground for freedom of dissent on the public streets, it seems. This is one to watch. Or make that two to watch.