As residents across the city observe an unusual Memorial Day holiday Monday, Chicago police dispersed a group of protesters rallying against the ongoing stay-at-home order issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The group gathered near Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park to call for an end to the restrictions imposed by the governor, saying that the ongoing order is damaging small businesses and causing massive economic harm to the state.
After calling for rally-goers to observe social distancing guidelines, Chicago police issued a dispersal order and broke up the rally.
“The Chicago Police Department has extensive training and experience in facilitating the peaceful expression of First Amendment activity,” the department said in a statement. “While we worked to ensure the First Amendment rights of those participating in today’s march, the organizers and participants were not practicing social distancing or biding by the public health guidelines outlined in the stay-at-home order. Therefore, for the health and safety of all residents involved in the rally, the Chicago Police Department issued a dispersal of the crowd and ordered the organizers to shut down the event.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot echoed the department’s stance on the issue, saying that they were forced to take action when protesters wouldn’t obey police directives.
“While we respect First Amendment rights, this gathering posed an unacceptable health risk and was dispersed,” Lightfoot said. “No matter where in the city you live, no one is exempt from Gov. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.”
The rally was one of a growing number of demonstrations statewide against the governor’s order, which is set to expire on May 29. The state is expected to move to a new phase of the “Restore Illinois” plan, allowing restaurants and bars to implement outdoor seating arrangements, allowing hair salons and spas to reopen to limited numbers of customers, and allowing all small retail outlets to reopen their doors.
Those changes haven’t been enough to stem the tide of discontentment about the restrictions, with rallies occurring in numerous communities, including Chicago and Springfield.
Rep. Darren Bailey, who has taken Pritzker to court on multiple occasions, was one of the speakers at Monday’s rally. Bailey has become a high-profile opponent to the governor’s policies, and made headlines in Springfield during the recent legislative session after he was asked to leave the premises after refusing to put on a face covering, as is required by special rules adopted by the Illinois House during the COVID-19 pandemic.