Storm on the Horizon: Major Protests Expected at Chicago Democratic National Convention

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Chicago police, Secret Service, and other federal state, and local law enforcement agencies are confident they can handle any protests at the Democratic National Convention.

At a Thursday press conference, CPD Superintendent Larry Snelling said: “With only two months until the convention we are finalizing our plans and ensuring that all of our operations will be safe.” “Make no mistakes, we are prepared. “We are ready because of the partnership, collaboration and open communication that everyone involved has established.”

Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle stated Tuesday that “we have a great working relationship with Chicago Police, as well as with a variety of other agencies both local and federal that will contribute to this whole-of-government approach that we are taking” relating to the DNC.

At a Tuesday press conference, Police Superintendent Larry Snelling outlined the law.

Snelling, who was speaking about safety measures at the convention, said that the First Amendment only protects you if you are not breaking the law. You can act out peacefully and still break the law.

The superintendent continued to state that it is illegal to block a road or trespass onto private property. It’s clear there’s trouble in the air, but it’s unclear that the law enforcement knows the nature of the danger. The Palestinians have a very expansive and unrealistic idea of what First Amendment permits and does not allow. Snelling told the protesters to obey the law. The protesters think their right to free speech is almost absolute.

Hatem Abudayyeh is the National Chair of U.S. Palestinian Community Network. He called Snelling’s remarks “very serious and disturbing.”

“The only duty of the Chicago Police and all other law enforcement is to respect our First Amendment rights. Abudayyeh stated that if he were to publicly announce what he was saying, it would be a cause for concern.

Blocking traffic, trespassing onto private property or protesting in public without a permit are “violations” of the First Amendment? This convention is going to be very interesting.

Block Club of Chicago

Ed Yohnka is the director of communications at ACLU of Illinois. He’s worried that Snelling’s remarks create the impression that “protests” are to be feared.

It’s also a concern that if a protest is conducted in accordance with the law, even a small slip-up could trigger mass arrest policy. Yohnka explained that if a group of people decides to protest in Daley Plaza, and they spill out onto the street due to their size, then those people may be arrested.

After their protest permits were denied, the ACLU of Illinois along with the March on the DNC Coalition sued the city at federal court to get the right protest near the DNC. Representatives of the coalitions stated that they would march without the permission of the city or with it.

Snelling stated, “We will not tolerate violence, crime or vandalism. We want people to be able to express themselves safely and responsibly. We will protect our city. We are prepared and will remain so as August approaches.”

The Chicago Inspector General’s Office has expressed doubts about the training methods used by the Chicago Police Department to prepare for the Convention.

Inspector General Deborah Witzburg released a 52-page document about the changes made to mass arrest policies. She found that they were not realistic.

The report stated, “Although the proposed policy change is promising, there was not enough time to include meaningful Department training and public input before their implementation in advance of the Democratic National Convention(DNC) of August 2024.”

Witzburg was not too impressed with the CPD’s methods of training in crowd control.

The report also found that Chicago police officers’ training in “crowd-management tactics,” such as the use of “pepper spray” and “encirclement,” of demonstrators was “insufficient”, highlighting concerns about possible infringements of protestors constitutional rights.

The report says that “CPD’s tactical trainings say [pepper] can be used to disperse passive resisters, but do not address circumstances where its use could violate constitutional rights.” The report states that “CPD members may be unable to differentiate between lawful and illegal demonstrators if they are not properly educated on their rights.”

Snelling, for his part had no response to the allegations. He urged the IG to “undertake a fuller review of the Department’s efforts, including observation of training and interviews with Department staff who have subject-matter expertise.”

Look harder, and you will see how well we have done. The CPD is putting thousands officers through three eight-hour sessions on de-escalation and law enforcement medical training. They also teach them how to use the new taser.

Will they remember anything in the heat battle when protesters spit at them and yell in their face? They are trying to provoke a violent reaction from the police. It will be difficult to keep their composure.

They’ll be able to put their training into good use in August.