Events to take place in advance of public demonstrations at NATO events

With less than a month remaining before expected demonstrations in Chicago as part of the annual gathering of NATO nations, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois is launching a series of "know your rights" programs aimed at assuring that demonstration participants understand what is and is not permissible under current Chicago ordinance and legal precedents. Topics to be covered at the events include where individuals can demonstrate, when a permit is necessary, limits on blocking building entrances and sidewalks and what to do if stopped by the police.

In addition, the ACLU of Illinois has created a comprehensive document on individual rights to protest and demonstrate in Chicago. The document is available here.

The first ACLU public training is scheduled for Wednesday, April 25th, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Chicago Temple, 77 West Washington in the City. The event is free and open to the public. On Thursday, April 26, beginning at 1:00 p.m., the ACLU of Illinois will host a Know Your Rights webinar, where participants from around the nation will hear about rules guiding protests in Chicago. Finally, the ACLU will host a Twitter chat on free expression, scheduled for Wednesday, May 9th at 1:00 p.m. Central time under the hash tag #kyr.

"Our first and foremost goal is to insure that everyone who wants to demonstrate and convey a message during the NATO meetings have the opportunity to make their voice heard," said Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois. "An understanding of the rules and practices in Chicago is a critical element of making certain that all voices are heard during this very visible time."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has been involved in protecting free speech and free expression in the City of Chicago since its establishment in the 1940s. The organization most notably provided legal assistance to protestors arrested and harmed during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and successfully challenged the Chicago Police's notorious "Red Squad" and its infiltration of law-abiding protests groups.

The organization also challenged the closing of the federal plaza in Chicago after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and also monitors a federal settlement it won against the McCormick Place Convention Center, the site of the upcoming NATO meeting, which requires free speech zones around the facility.

"Assuring that free speech is respected during this international meeting is a continuation of our work, using new technologies and educating a new generation of activists," added Grossman.

In addition to these events before the upcoming NATO meetings, the ACLU is recruiting and training a number of lawyers from across the Chicago areas to act as observers during the largest expected protests. The ACLU has been meeting with City officials and other interested parties for months to facilitate free speech in Chicago surrounding the NATO meeting, and plans -- through these observers -- to continue these discussions on the ground if any problems arise.

"Based on our discussions with colleagues around the nation where these events have been hosted, we know that having lawyers and observers on the streets are critical to assuring the greatest protection of free expression," said Grossman. "We look forward to working with City officials to ensure that peaceful, organized demonstrations of expression are recognized and respected."