Ruling Tosses Parts of City Disorderly Conduct Law

Activists Sued After Being Arrested for Leafleting Near Armed Forces Recruiting Booth.

CBS Broadcasting: April 29th, 2009

CHICAGO (CBS) – A federal judge has thrown out parts of the city’s Disorderly Conduct Ordinance following a challenge by anti-war protesters, attorneys said.

In ruling on a lawsuit filed by two people arrested while leafleting at the Taste of Chicago in 2006, U.S. District Judge John O’Grady ruled that parts of the ordinance were unconstitutional due to their vagueness.

The demonstrators, Donald Goldhamer and Robin Schirmer, were arrested on July 2, 2006, for leafleting near a U.S. Armed Forces recruitment booth. They were charged with disorderly conduct, but the charges were dismissed and they then filed suit according to attorneys from the firm Loevy & Loevy, who filed the lawsuit.

Goldhamer and Schirmer complained that the ordinance gave police too much power to arrest people who refused to disperse even if their protest was peaceful and lawful. The lawsuit said this amounted to allowing police to curtail people’s First Amendment rights6.

In ruling on the lawsuit Grady wrote that parts of the ordinance were too vague, particularly since there may not always be a guarantee of somewhere else that protesters can go to leaflet or demonstrate.

“When an individual is ordered to disperse … usually there will alternative channels for those individuals to communicate their views,” Grady wrote. “But (the city) cannot demonstrate that subsection (d) (of the ordinance) allows for ample alternative channels.”

A separate lawsuit is still pending, filed by activists Andy Thayer and Brad Lyttle, and stemming from a 2005 anti-war protest on the second anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, the Loevy & Loevy release said. In that instance, police dispersed a news conference that anti-war organizers had convened, the release said.


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