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The Real "Sit Down And Shut Up" Ordinance

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The Real "Sit Down And Shut Up" Ordinance

Edward M. Burke | 14th Ward
A Chicago political legend, Burke has held political office since 1969. He is chairman of the ever-powerful Finance Committee and opposed Mayor Harold Washington during the Council Wars of the 1980s. | Read Full Bio

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Occupy Chicago members called Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new Parade and Public Assembly Ordinance the “Sit Down And Shut Up” ordinance.

They made their disapproval known by bringing signs to a Special Events Committee meeting, and grumbling from the galley during the full Council vote.

Now, two of the Council’s grumpiest old men are co-sponsoring a real Sit Down and Shut Up Ordinance, one that would ban any public reaction at all to the Council’s proceedings. According to the ordinance, which has been referred to the Rules committee:

“No demonstration of approval or disapproval from members of the public shall be permitted within the City Council Chambers, including, but not limited to cheering, yelling, clapping, foot stomping, whistling, booing, or jeering, and if such demonstrations are conducted, the gallery or public seating area may be cleared.”

The sponsors are aldermen Edward Burke, Richard Mell, Carrie Austin and Ray Suarez.

The ordinance is clearly aimed at shutting down protests over the upcoming G-8/NATO summit. At the Special Events Committee, a police officer snatched a “Sit Down and Shut Up Ordinance” placard from a protestors’ hands. At the full Council meeting in January, Occupy members who couldn’t get into the crowded chamber chanted “Shame on you!” from the lobby, at a volume that rocked the second and third stories of City Hall.

So, yeah, the City Council is overreacting by cracking down on audience participation because of this one event -- and it’s inviting suspicion that the city is using the G-8/NATO summit as an excuse to impose all sorts of new security measures that will never be repealed.

On the other hand, the Occupy movement thinks its cause is so holy it has the right to disrupt meetings and shout down politicians in the name of “democracy.” This could probably be solved by a meeting between alderman and protestors.

There are times when the public does need to sit down and shut to let the Council do its business. But the public shouldn’t be silenced permanently.

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Related Topics Ed Burke, Rahm Emanuel
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