2024 DNC

DNC protesters, Chicago officials seek compromise ahead of event

The talks come after a federal lawsuit was filed over the city's initial plans for the protests

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Attorneys with the city of Chicago are working on a compromise with activists over proposed protest routes during the Democratic National Convention this summer.

The Coalition to March on the Democratic National Convention, which represents organizations made up of pro-Palestinian and other protesters, is demanding the right to march near the United Center during the convention.

“There's going to be tens of thousands of people here. Maybe as many as 100,000. It is going to be the largest protest in the history of Chicago for Palestinian rights,” said Hatem Abudayyeh, the national chair of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network.

After the city denied their protest permits, the protesters initiated a federal lawsuit and preliminary injunction. Attorneys representing the city offered a spot near Grant Park, but the coalition argued it's not a reasonable alternative because it's not within sight and sound of the convention.

The activists want their target audience, including delegates, politicians and reporters, to hear their message.

“I don't think anybody can reasonably believe, including the city attorneys, that putting protesters four miles away meets the First Amendment requirements,” said Chris Williams, the attorney who represents the protest coalition in the federal lawsuit.

During a status hearing Thursday, Andrew Worseck, an attorney for the city, told federal Judge Andrea Wood city officials have finally obtained enough information from the U.S. Secret Service to propose another route. Part of the problem is officials with the Secret Service have not yet announced the security perimeter for the convention, though city officials have begun honing their strategies for the event.

The Chicago Police Department is continuing to make changes to its mass arrest policy with just over two months left until the Democratic National Convention, NBC Chicago's Mary Ann Ahern reports.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson's Office said it cannot comment on pending litigation.

Attorneys on both sides are set to discuss the issue more on Friday behind closed doors. The judge scheduled another hearing for June 25 due to the time sensitivity of the situation, with the convention looming less than three months away.

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee a similar legal fight is unfolding over where protesters will be allowed at the Republican National Convention. A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin on behalf of the Coalition to March on the RNC argues that Milwaukee’s ordinances governing parade and protest activity directly violate the First Amendment.

Secret Service officials as well as Milwaukee’s police and fire chiefs addressed reporters during a news conference Thursday about safety and security during the RNC.

“We respect the First Amendment rights. We understand that it is important for us to understand that there is going to be protests – how do we adjust and make sure that we're putting the best foot forward in regards to particularly interaction,” said Jeffrey Norman, the chief of the Milwaukee Police Department.

Kimberly Cheatle, the director of the Secret Service, said the final security plan for the RNC will be announced in two weeks. Officials are considering a number of factors as they craft the perimeter.

“We conduct a blast assessment, but we also want to make sure that we're making as little an impact to the community as possible knowing that there are residences, there are businesses and we want to make sure that we're working with those community members,” Cheatle said.

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