I voted yes on the NATO/G-8 Ordinance, proposed by Mayor Emanuel, today.
Almost everyone agrees that having these two summits in our city is a great opportunity to solidify our rightful place as a world city. While my original position was to vote against this ordinance, my opinion changed over the last two days, because of the concessions and changes made to the original proposal.
The ordinance itself is not as extreme as many, with their own agendas, have made it seem. The administration rolled back a number of the pieces of the ordinance, which were of most concern (most notably the steep fine increases). There is definitely a reality gap between the perception and reality of this ordinance.
I'm very surprised by the mishandling of this whole thing. I checked my email on Tuesday morning and there were over 2,000 emails from people urging me to vote no.
But, in the end, I don't believe that the particulars of this ordinance significantly curtail 1st Amendment rights enough to justify a no vote.
I have organized and participated in many protests in our city. One of my favorite books is All the Power: Revolution Without Illusion by Mark Anderson and I'm currently reading Radical Disciple -- a book about Father Pfleger. I was involved in the anti-death penalty movement for ten years before I became an alderman. The day that this useless and racist punishment was abolished in Illinois was one my favorite days. In 2003, I helped organize the Chicago rally against the Iraq War, which saw thousands of people take to our streets. I was arrested in front of ICE last February for protesting our insane anti-immigrant laws.
I believe in the power of protesting. But, even more importantly, I believe in the right to protest. The 1st Amendment is one of the major things, which makes our country special and instead of seeking ways to give 1st Amendment rights to corporations; government needs to be focused on expanding these rights to individuals as much as possible.
I still have concerns with the ordinance; specifically the ability to deputize officers from other states, which the administration has agreed to better clarify.
Today, I voted in favor of this ordinance because as a member of the City Council, public safety is my most important responsibility and if people are violent (like in Seattle in 1999) they must be swiftly arrested and the violence put to an end.
I have a lot of faith in the Chicago Police Department, who are well aware of their history of "dealing" with protests. The way they handled the Occupy protests in Grant Park late last year was infinitely superior to their fellow police officers around the country (especially the NYPD and Oakland PD, who in many instances made themselves look like idiots). I believe that the CPD will not abuse these new tools and will handle NATO and G-8 with a high degree of professionalism and respect.
It would have been easy for me to vote no on this ordinance. I know that I disappointed many of my supporters today. But, I don't want to be someone who refuses to compromise and doesn't give any ground. I'm not interested in beating my chest and becoming someone who can't get anything of substance done for my constituents.