Millennium Park, a major community gathering spot in the center of the City of Chicago, must be open to protesters without unreasonable restrictions, the ACLU of Illinois demanded in a letter today. The letter to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), which operates Millennium Park, comes after park security personnel made unconstitutional demands on a group of peaceful demonstrators in the park on October 26th. 

Specifically, the ACLU called on the DCASE to respect the First Amendment right to protest in the park, including by holding signs and banners, leafletting, and using amplified sound. 

Quoting the Supreme Court, the letter notes that “Public parks are traditional public forums that have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions.”

In such spaces, “the government’s authority to restrict speech is limited to ‘regulations of the time, place, and manner of expression which are content-neutral, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication.”

The letter explains that the Millennium Park Rules and the recent actions by Millennium Park security staff violate these First Amendment principles.  

This warning comes after an October 26th rally at Wrigley Square in Millennium Park. Park security staff told protesters not to hold signs or banners, distribute leaflets, or use a small sound amplification speaker.

The letter outlines how these restrictions are violate the right to free speech in a public park, and asks for DCASE to provide assurances by Friday, November 1st that protesters in Wrigley Square will be allowed to use amplified sound and to hold signs and banners without interference from Park security or other DCASE personnel. Another rally is planned for Saturday, November 2nd. 

A copy of the letter can be viewed here.