Chicago's aging hippy, dippy yippies and their spawn have a legitimate point in their opposition to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's crackdown on potentially violent public protests. By anticipating such conduct at May's G-8 and NATO summits here, do the new proposed rules infringe on the constitutional right of free assembly?
Marilyn Katz, an anti-war activist in the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention riots, explained why she believes so in this space Friday. She pointed out that police Superintendent Garry McCarthy could deputize "unnamed people as law officers at his discretion." She also bemoaned limitations on the time and place of mass protests and dramatic percentage increases in fines for resisting arrest.
Some activists warn of "parallels" to Mayor Richard J. Daley's crackdown during the 1968 convention. In that, there is irony. G-8 and NATO protesters are not alone in seeing dangerous parallels. On the other side are law enforcement agencies that recollect the rage that tore the city apart during the riots. Will wild-eyed protesters at the May meetings again traumatize Chicago? It's not an unfounded fear; violence broke out among tens of thousands of protesters at similar international summits in Seattle and Pittsburgh.
Calmer reflection could lead to the conclusion that not everything that Emanuel proposes is unreasonable. More surveillance cameras, closing parks and beaches until 6 a.m. and higher fines for those resisting arrest are worth debating. As for deputizing more law enforcement officers, what he's proposing isn't like a Wild West sheriff handing out badges to anyone who's around to chase down the varmints that just held up the First Bank of Deadwood.