Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Circuit Court Finding of Unconstitutionality in the Occupy Chicago Cases

Court rules Chicago’s park curfew ordinance is constitutional

CHICAGO—(ENEWSPF)—December 23, 2014. As protests against police misconduct and racial injustice sweep the nation, a panel of the Illinois Appellate Court Tuesday, December 23, 2014 upheld one of the largest mass arrests in the city’s history. 

Occupy Chicago protesters, represented by pro bono attorneys with the National Lawyers Guild of Chicago (NLG), People’s Law Office (PLO), and Durkin & Roberts had won an earlier lower court decision dismissing their 2011 arrests as an unconstitutional violation of their First Amendment rights.  The case, City of Chicago v. Tieg Alexander, et al., 1-12-2858, dates back to October of 2011, when approximately 300 activists associated with Occupy Chicago were arrested on two consecutive Saturdays in Grant Park. 

Ninety-two of the arrestees challenged their arrests and were victorious in the Circuit Court, which struck down the ordinance used to arrest them.  Today a panel of the Illinois Appellate Court overturned that decision, in a rollback of First Amendment rights.

“The policing in these cases illustrates Rahm Emanuel’s shameful corporate agenda, designed to elevate corporate interests and erode the rights of everyday people,” said Sarah Gelsomino, attorney with the People’s Law Office and National Lawyers Guild.  “It’s outrageous that the City continues to waste our money on prosecuting activists for a petty curfew violation.”

NLG attorney Molly Armour stated:  “Today’s decision strikes a blow to protest movements at the very moment we see how essential they are to the national dialogue and to affecting fundamental social justice.  As lower court recognized — public spaces should be reserved for the People and the moments in our history where dissent is essential.” 

“The National Lawyers Guild will continue to demand protections for those who challenge injustice,” Gelsomino says.  “The fight to protect freedoms of speech and assembly is vital, especially now as protests against racist and oppressive policing sweep the country.”

The NLG continues to support people’s movements in the streets with its Legal Observer™ Program and in the courts defending those arrested.  While disappointed in the ruling, the NLG remains steadfast in its commitment to the fights for social, economic, and racial justice.   The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

Appellate Court Opinion

Illinois Appellate Decision – December 23, 2014

Documents from Occupy Chicago Appeal

City of Chicago’s Appeal Brief – May 8, 2013
Occupy Chicago Response Brief – September 30, 2013
City of Chicago’s Reply Brief – December 12, 2013

Documents from Trial Level Court

Decision Ruling in Favor of Occupy Chicago – September 27, 2012
Occupy Chicago Reply to City – February 10, 2012
Original Occupy Chicago Motion to Dismiss – November 4, 2011

Source: Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild