Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mayor 1% and Allies Crackdown on Free Speech in Chicago

See here for background on the anti-protest ordinance that Rahm and his lapdogs on the City Council recently passed. The bill jacks up fines for peacefully resisting arrest in an effort to scare away protesters during the NATO/G8 summit planned for May. It also institutes a series of draconian polices designed to discourage protest: increased fees for obtaining a city permit to march, rules requiring that a permit be received over a week in advance, ordinances requiring protesters to specify in advance which contingents will be marching and in which order, as well as a heap of red tape involving the content of protesters signs. Of course, these measures don't just apply to traditional protests and parades, they apply to any large gathering on a public sidewalk (including picket lines). Here are some more details of the bill:
Surviving measures include: more surveillance cameras; parks and beaches closed until 6 a.m.; sweeping parade restrictions and higher fees for those events and empowering Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to “deputize” out-of-state law enforcement personnel in the event that demonstrators overwhelm Chicago Police.

The mayor would also be granted sweeping authority to purchase goods and services for the summits — without City Council approval or competitive bidding — provided those items cannot be purchased under existing contracts.

The intent of the measures is clear: they are designed to strongly discourage protest through intimidation. It is not surprising that Rahm—aptly dubbed "mayor 1%" by Occupy Chicago—has taken such a hard line against protest for the upcoming NATO/G8 summit. He cracked down on Occupy Chicago from the very beginning and used mass-arrests to try to disperse the movement on more than one occasion. He also said, after arresting hundreds of Chicagoans attempting to exercise their right to free speech, that he was using this as a "dress rehearsal" for NATO/G8.

Now, Rahm and his obedient followers on the City Coucil recently passed a cruel budget that punishes ordinary Chicagoans with austerity and lavishes the local 1% with cash. This, we were told, was necessary because there just isn't enough to go around.

Yet, he and the City Council are spending untold sums bringing the global 1% to Chicago for a party that the rest of us aren't invited to. Estimates already range from $50-70 million, and the City Council has already given Rahm a blank check to spend as much as he pleases.

The message is clear. For ordinary Chicagoans, Rahm and his minions offer nothing but school closings, library closings, health center cuts, layoffs, transportation cuts and other forms of austerity. For the rich and powerful of the world, Rahm and his crew have unlimited amounts of cash to fork over.

What if the majority of the population doesn't like it? Rahm's answer, which he's put forward on more than one occasion, is simple: "fuck you".

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