“Occupy Chicago” Protesters Lose Their Free Speech Challenge After Nearly Six Years

Remember the “Occupy” movement/protests from fall 2011? Well some participants in the Chicago chapter of the movement got their (likely) final day in court this summer.

Occupy Chicago took place mainly in Grant Park in downtown Chicago, right along Lake Michigan. The city generally didn’t interfere with the movement until over 100 protesters sought “permanent occupation” in the park using tents. The city refused to allow the protestors to camp in the park, and, when they refused to leave, Chicago Police arrested them for violating a city ordinance that closes Grant Park after 11pm.

Chicago Police surround and arrested the “Occupy Chicago” protesters that refused to leave the park after it closed.

The protesters argued that their arrests, and the city ordinance, violated their rights to free speech and free assembly. After a 5-plus year legal battle–including a first round of appeals and a remand order–the Illinois Supreme Court ruled 6 to 1 in June for the city. The court found that the ordinance was a reasonable regulation of the “time, place, or manner” of speech that did not violate the defendants’ constitutional rights. The U.S. Supreme Court could hear this case, but it is unlikely.

[Uber-nerdy fact warning: the defendants in this case argued that a comma (yes, the punctuation) added in the state constitution in 1970 conferred on them an right to ‘assemble’ that was different from and broad than their right to free ‘speech.’ Interestingly, the court found that the added comma did change the meaning of the state constitution, but not in the way that defendants argued, and not in a way that made a difference in the case.]

Case: City of Chicago v. Alexander, No. 120350 (Ill. June 15, 2017) (opinion here)

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