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Friends of the Parks: Keeping A. Montgomery Ward’s Dream Alive

LI-sculp-0020aFriends of the Parks (FOTP), a Chicago non-profit and an opponent of the Lucas Museum’s occupation of lakefront space, released the following statement on Facebook on June 24th, 2016:

“It is unfortunate that the Lucas Museum has made the decision to leave Chicago rather than locate the museum on one of several alternative sites that is not on Chicago’s lakefront. That would have been the true win-win,” said Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry and Board Chair Lauren Moltz.

At the time of this writing, they have received over 830 comments on their post. Mostly negative to put it mildly.

I see the FOTP as a continuation of A. Montgomery Ward’s life’s work to keep the Chicago lake front as “Forever Open, Clear, and Free.”

Ward fought to prevent the elite Chicago leaders of his time from encroaching on the lakefront, leaving all the future generations a priceless legacy that FOTP and its supporters continue to protect. The Tribune was one of his vanquished opponents.

Despite his 1909 victory in the Illinois Supreme Court, Ward was “embittered by his struggle.”

“I fought for the poor people of Chicago, not for the millionaires,” he told the [Tribune].

“Here is park frontage on the lake, comparing favorably with the Bay of Naples, which city officials would crowd with buildings, transforming the breathing spot for the poor into a showground of the educated rich. I do not think it is right.

“Perhaps I may yet see the public appreciate my efforts. But I doubt it.”


Past is prologue. History has been grateful for Ward’s efforts that were nearly thankless in his lifetime. Similarly, history will be kind to FOTP and US District Court Judge John Darrah. Its critics clinically congratulate the heroes of this story on their preservation of “a parking lot”. Future generations will find it far more feasible to transform the parking lot back into a “breathing spot for the poor” than they would a museum showground for Chicago’s 2010s era elite.


Freedom to Indefinitely Assemble in the Public Commons

This past weekend, estimates say 175 people were arrested at Congress and Michigan in Chicago as part of the Occupy Chicago movement. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has stated that the arrests were called for because protesters were violating a park curfew ordinance.

But I felt as though the Bill of Rights, which guarantees freedom of assembly, never mentioned a time limit on that assembly nor a curfew.

According to the First Amendment Center, “the right to free association extends beyond intimate relationships. Groups peaceably joined to engage in First Amendment activities also enjoy protection from government interference. To constitute “expressive association,” such interaction must be defined by common political, cultural or economic activism. Social gatherings that are intended for leisure and diversion do not qualify and may be regulated by the government for any rational purpose.

But then today, the same organization had this to say about Occupy Wall Street:
“Courts have traditionally upheld the right of governments to manage and supervise public property. As long as there’s a rational basis for the rules and no point of view is being discriminated against, there’s no First Amendment violation. If the left and right alike are being told to go home at 9 so that the city can clean the park, our constitutional rights are intact.
“Allowing [24/7 occupation] would require courts to say this kind of protest trumps cities’ basic administrative rights and their responsibilities to local taxpayers. That’s not very likely to happen.

Do you see a contradiction there? In both excerpts, the right of a municipality to maintain reasonable rules about access to public areas is not challenged. But in the first part, it is clear that in cases of “expressive association,” participants should be protected from government interference.

It is not a matter of barring left and right. Only one group feels a need to make this political expression and so by barring the only group that wants to use the park for this purpose, they are by default, excluding a group with a particular viewpoint and chosen tactic.

So wouldn’t the Grant Park’s ordinance closing at 11 only apply for LEISURE purposes? If people are utilizing a public park for “expressive association” as the occupy movement clearly is, then wouldn’t the restrictions on that activity be unconstitutional? I don’t think the constitution has any time limit on the free assembly of people and so if the assembly should last longer than a day, people can be expected to nap and have shelter where they are assembling for expressive association.

On the NH Civil Liberties Union website, the following case seem to back up my conclusions:
1939 Hague v. CIO
Invalidating the repressive actions of Jersey City’s anti-union Mayor, “Boss” Hague, the Supreme Court ruled that freedom of assembly applies to public forums, such as “streets and parks.”

Upon further reading of the case, it is clear Hague targeted CIO. Other groups were doing similar activities in this area.

The following parts did stand out as relevant to Occupy Chicago’s plight:

The ordinance there in question apparently had a different purpose from that of the one here challenged, for it was not directed solely at the exercise of the right of speech and assembly, but was addressed as well to other activities, not in the nature of civil rights, which doubtless might be regulated or prohibited as respects their enjoyment in parks. In the instant case the ordinance deals only with the exercise of the right of assembly for the purpose of communicating views entertained by speakers, and is not a general measure to promote the public convenience in the use of the streets or parks.

Wherever the title of streets and parks may rest, they 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. Such use of the streets and public places has, from ancient times, been a part of the privileges, immunities, rights, and liberties of citizens. The privilege of a citizen of the United States to usethe [307 U.S. 496, 516]   streets and parks for communication of views on national questions may be regulated in the interest of all; it is not absolute, but relative, and must be exercised in subordination to the general comfort and convenience, and in consonance with peace and good order; but it must not, in the guise of regulation, be abridged or denied.

This article regarding Christian Legal Society v. Martinez states the following:

“The State may not exclude speech where its distinction is not reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum…”

Occupy Chicago voted tonight, by super majority vote, to assert this coming Saturday night that first amendment rights apply 24/7 on public property. I could not agree more.

Russ Feingold at ACLU’s Bill of Rights Celebration in Chicago

“The best chance of successes in [fighting governmental abuses] will come from a multifaceted approach, including working with Members of Congress in the legislative front, going to court when appropriate, organizing political efforts, especially around elections and the societal effort whenever possible that gives real human examples of the problems that occur when our constitutional rights and freedoms are attacked. I don’t suggest that it’ll be easy, I don’t suggest that it’ll be quick, but I am entirely persuaded that if we can make the case to the American people, as is often the circumstance, our political leaders will follow the people’s lead. And we can win the fights that start out as lonely ones.”  – Russ Feingold

Learn more about Progressives United and support the cause.

University of Chicago neglects its neighbors

Chicago Industrial Polluters

Reading for my class and came across this:

Some of the costs of air pollution are shouldered by the industry that may be responsible, in the form of higher costs of production, for pollution control and poor public relations. Much of the cost of pollution control is passed through as higher prices for goods and services to offset costs. However, the cost of the effects of pollution are not accounted for and may be considerably greater. The public bears most of the costs of air pollution: human health problems, destruction of materials, plant and animal damage, poor visibility, loss of appeal for tourists, and reduced quality of life for residents. As many of these costs are not obvious, they are not charged back to the industry that may be responsible. This means that the community subsidizes, or indirectly pays for, the cost of the industry to do business.

p333, Basic Environmental Health, Yassi, et al.

Problem in Chicago is that the wealthy residents utilized their power to keep these industrial polluters out of their backyard. The poor didn’t have that power and so they’ve been forced to be the community that subsidizes industry. How many non-compliant coal plants are on the north side or north suburbs? How many diesel truck depots are on the south side? North side? Class warfare? At least the poor didn’t fire the first shot.

Support the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance! Call your Alderman and demand she/he support it! Follow progress on twitter #chicoal.

Chicago Budget Cut Protests Downtown

A coalition of community groups in Chicago protested the massive budget cuts that went through the House, including massive cuts to HUD. I think every child deserves a shot at the American dream. I am living mine because I grew up in a stable home with great, well funded schools, and I kept my grades up. I was able to go to a great college without wondering what would happen if I didn’t get a full scholarship. As I grew up, I saw that kids in certain parts of the US, like in low income neighborhoods in Chicago don’t get that opportunity. I realized that my own potential may very well have been drowned if I had been unlucky enough to have been born poor – if I had to grow up in those shoes.

So why get arrested today? Because all these cuts – not only the 21.2% to HUD. The 55% to EPA. The full defunding of Planned Parenthood. It’s a run on all the collective partnerships we have built as a nation, as a people. HUD helps keep families stable and kids with a sense of space. EPA tries to protect us from the tens of thousands of new chemicals being produced in the world today that weren’t around a few generations ago. Planned Parenthood? Women are empowered when they have control over their future and when they can choose when they are ready to be good mothers.

About 11 of us staged a civil disobedience and it went really well. Lots of press. A lot of the honking drivers were giving thumbs ups. One lady in front got out of her car and was talking pictures and cheering us on! We cooperated with police and they weren’t rough with us. Handcuffs weren’t too tight although others said theirs were very uncomfortable. The police driving us were nice enough. When we were brought to 18th and State, they asked a little bit about why we were there. Ran our names and within a few hours, we were out with tickets in hand. Not every civil disobedience goes that smoothly, but we had great partners in place and a good support system. A great day and great way to stand up for what we believed in.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Protest 2.25.11, posted with vodpod


Tell Rahm to invest in Chicago Public Schools!

These Times We Live In…

Old news for most activists, but it may be new to you. On September 24th, the FBI raided 7 homes of anti-war activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. They raided based on this law recently decided by the Supreme Court. “Former President Jimmy Carter criticized the decision, arguing that “The ‘material support law’ – which is aimed at putting an end to terrorism – actually threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence. The vague language of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom.” ”

It’s very late and I have lots of commitments this week, so I cannot even begin to explain how…emotionally complex this situation has been. Anger at the powers that be for allowing such a violation of the rights of peace activists. Shock that they can actually do this.  Disappointment in our country for being so far from a perfection.

On Sept 24th, with no warning at all, 20+ FBI agents showed up at the door of two activists in Logan Square and presented a warrant to take anything going back to 2001. They spent 10 hours in their home, going through their things, computers, children’s artwork, and took 40+ boxes of it with them – much of it pre-dating 2001. Their attorney challenged them on taking pre-2001 items as they didn’t have a warrant for them, but the FBI agents there blatantly ignored that fact.

In addition to their homes being searched and property being seized for no cause at all, they are also being ordered to go before a grand jury. A grand jury is like no court you’ve likely heard of. There is no judge. You have no lawyer. You have no right to plead the 5th. You have no right to know what you’re being accused of. The “jury” is hand picked by prosecutors with no screening for bias like in a normal court of law. It is not open to press or outsiders. If you don’t testify, they can put you in jail indefinitely. And if you do agree to testify, you must answer every question. You cannot refuse anything – even if it violates your 5th amendment rights as noted above. If you fib, perjury. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I encourage you to read more about it here from an expert who knows the process all too well.

It may also be interesting to note that up until July 2008, Mandela and ANC party members were barred from entering the United States — except the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan — without a special waiver from the US Secretary of State, because of their South African apartheid regime era designation as terrorists. Many liberals and democrats today proudly share how they publicly supported Mandela back in the 80s. If this law was in place back then, many of them could have been deemed terrorists – for opposing South African apartheid. Radical is relative anyone? Mandela posters were as ubiquitous on campus back then as Obama support placards were on campuses in 2008.

The Chicago Tribune story from Sept 24th.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Follow the details of this ongoing case here. Go learn what you can do to stop this injustice. Their civil liberties are our own. In solidarity…

Be Active Locally: Support the Whittier Parents and Community

Update* They won.

Earlier. I work in the Pilsen neighborhood where the Chicago Public School system has allocated $354,000 to tear down an old field house at the Whittier School. This field house is currently used as a communtiy center. The parents want the field house to be turned into a library, which the school doesn’t have right now. 99.2% of students qualify for free lunch under federal guidelines so this is the income level of the surrounding community. I know I spent a lot of time at the library as a kid. Better a library than the streets.

So here is what you can do to make CPS and the city invest in this community like it invests in more affluent neighborhoods:

Please sign the online petition to support the parents and community 599 signatures and counting.

If your organization or business would like to be listed as a supporter please contact Rozalinda Borcila.

You can call Ron Huberman’s office at 773.553.1500 and declare your support for the Whittier community and the renovation of the field house to include a library. When I called, they were nice, said thank you and that they were tallying the calls. What does this mean? Your call matters. Make it.

You can also call the 25th Ward Alderman, Danny Solis at 773-523-4100, telling him that you support the parents and community members of Whittier School and he should too.

Read more about the issue in the news

Solidarity with the Whittier Parents’ Struggle: Sit-in at “la Casita” Field House, Whittier Dual-Language Elementary School, Chicago

How is Alderman Stone STILL in office?

Anyone who has ever paid any attention to Chicago politics knows Alderman Stone. He’s the cantankerous man who votes against anything that is good for the people.

I know for a fact that he has been a vocal opponent of the security deposit remedies of the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance. He chronically falls asleep in meetings big and small – this has been endlessly documented in the press. And most recently, he opposed the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance, that would take some of Daley’s TIF slush fund and mandate that 20% be spent on affordable housing. He was also notably crass and racist when in a fierce fight for his seat against Naisy Dolar in 2007. I could go on.

So how has he stayed in power? In part by committing voter fraud, which he equated to being as bad as “spitting on the sidewalk.”

From the Chicago Tribune:

Reached for comment Wednesday, Stone called the case “a witch hunt” and said Eapen and Ramos are “political prisoners.”

“They were convicted of misdemeanors — misdemeanors that are no longer crimes,” said Stone. “Not felonies, misdemeanors, like spitting on the sidewalk.”