On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council will consider an ordinance permitting Chicago police and federal law enforcement officials to enforce various restrictions inside yet-undefined boundaries for “security zones” near the United Center and McCornick Place during the course of the Democratic National Convention.

Edwin C. Yohnka, Director of Communications and Public Policy at the ACLU of Illinois, responded to the proposed ordinance in advance of this week’s City Council meeting:

The ordinance under consideration by City Council limits the fundamental First Amendment right of people to demonstrate and protest critical public policy issues during the upcoming Convention. As written, the ordinance raises significant constitutional questions.

While some public reports have described limited access to a small area, the exact location is unknown as the security zones have not yet been identified. Moreover, even after the footprint is designated, the ordinance does not require the public will be fully informed about where any limitations might be enforced – suggesting only that police must make efforts to inform the public. 

Such vagueness inevitably will lead to selective enforcement of this ordinance.

The ordinance also contains unnecessary and dangerous restrictions. During what may be the hottest period of the Chicago summer, the ordinance appears to bar the presence of water bottles for protestors who are standing and marching on hot pavement for hours. Such an approach discourages those wishing to advance critical policy issues during this international event.

We hope the City Council will ask detailed questions about how people will know where security zones are located and precisely what they are prohibited from bringing into the space before proceeding to a vote.