CFL News
May 10, 2012

Group planning NATO protest threatens to sue city

Nurses protest a last-minute change to their permit for a protest and rally on Thursday, May 18

Source: Chicago Tribune

By David Heinzmann

A nurses group protested Wednesday at City Hall and said they would sue the city over the decision by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration to revoke permission for a workday demonstration in the Loop during the NATO summit weekend.

But officials with National Nurses United said they may have to accept the city's decision to move their May 18 rally — the only one scheduled for a workday in the city's business center — from Daley Plaza to the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park.

City officials sent the group a letter Tuesday changing the terms of a permit they had held since February, revoking permission to end their march in the Loop. City officials said the group's promotion of the event and the addition of a well-known musician to the program could swell the crowd to exceed the stated capacity of 5,000 in the plaza.

If they don't file a legal appeal by the end of the day Thursday, the nurses organization will accept the alternate end point for their march, said Jan Rodolfo, a spokeswoman for the union. But the group would still pursue legal action accusing the city of violating their First Amendment rights by blocking access to Daley Plaza, a long-established gathering place for public functions and demonstrations.

"People keep asking, 'Why do you mind moving?' but they should be asking (Emanuel's administration), 'Why do you want them to move?'" said Jean Ross, co-president of the union. "We don't want to give up just because we're challenged. We want to be very, very visible. We want people to see us and join us."

The city told the nurses group it needed to move the rally because organizers promoted the event so much that it would exceed the accepted crowd estimate. The city also noted that the group had added an appearance by singer Tom Morello, former guitarist for Rage Against the Machine. A larger crowd on a workday in the Loop could strain city resources, administration officials said, citing aggravating factors including the Crosstown Series pitting the White Sox against the Cubs several miles away in Wrigley Field.

Emanuel said Wednesday that the city was offering a reasonable alternative.

"I believe firmly in people's First Amendment right. They'll be able to exercise that," Emanuel said. "This has nothing to do with that.

"But if you go back to their actual petition, they talked about 1,000 people and nothing about kind of a rock concert. And if you want to change the type of event you're going to have its more appropriate to have it in Grant Park rather than Daley Plaza during the workday."

Organizers of the nurses' march said they expected the increased attention to their march to increase its attendance from 1,000 to about 2,000, still well within the capacity of Daley Plaza. And they argued that the city has routinely allowed groups to hold demonstrations and rallies in the plaza that well exceed the stated capacity of 5,000 people.