Reproductive Rights Advocates Suing Chicago After Permit to March During DNC Rejected

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

A reproductive rights advocacy coalition is suing the city of Chicago and Police Superintendent Larry Snelling, claiming the city is violating its First Amendment rights after it denied their permit to protest during the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

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Bodies Outside of Unjust Laws on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against the city, Snelling and Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Carney, claiming they’ve used Chicago’s “constitutionally defective” parade permit ordinance to summarily deny permits that would allow groups to march during and near the convention.

“The city says it doesn’t want chaos during the Democratic National Convention,” Andy Thayer, a member of Bodies Outside of Unjust Laws, said during a press conference, “but their actions — like the actions of Richard J. Daley a generation ago — are about preserving disorder.”

A spokesperson for the city’s Law Department said Thursday they had not yet been served with a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment on pending litigation.

According to the lawsuit, the city hasn’t yet published plans to accommodate large-scale protests during the DNC. The Secret Service, which will determine the security boundaries around the United Center and McCormick Place, has not yet announced those footprints.

Members of Bodies Outside of Unjust Laws claim that rather than marching in front of the thousands of expected attendees coming to Chicago for the DNC, the city has told permit applicants they can instead march along an alternative route on Columbus Drive.

But the group claims this path would be “virtually invisible” to their intended audience.

“The message is clear,” the plaintiffs wrote in their lawsuit, “Defendants will tolerate marches during the Convention only if they are nowhere near the Convention or its delegates.”

Other groups who had similarly sought permits to march during the convention have also seen those applications denied and are suing the city as a result.

The coalition said it was the first group to submit a march permit application when the window to do so opened Jan. 2. It later filed an amended application with a shorter march route, but that was rejected by the city.

Bodies Outside of Unjust Laws said it appealed that decision and argued its case before a hearing officer, but the city claimed the proposed march would require too many resources to secure it and manage traffic disruptions.

The group argued the permit denial was unconstitutional and that any facts supporting the city’s claims “are sorely lacking.”

“Sadly, the city has not created a clear, transparent plan for welcoming those who want to come to demonstrate and express themselves on the issues of our day,” Ed Yohnka, the director of communications and public policy at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said Thursday.

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