Protests: International Standards 2016

Protests: International Standards 2016
by Susan Basko, esq.

The expert panel of OSCE ODIHR has issued, Human Rights Handbook on Policing Assemblies, its latest guidebook on international standards for protests. You can download a pdf of the guidebook HERE.   Previous versions in earlier years have leaned toward vague and euphemistic wording and idealistic expectations.  This 2016 version is more specific and useful, perhaps because of the addition of 10 panelists from police departments worldwide.

On this panel from the U.S., there is Ralph Price, General Counsel of the Office of the Superintendent from the Chicago Police Department.  Chicago has an excellent recent track record of large protests with no major trouble.  Chicago has also been able to hold huge non-protest events with only minor expected problems.  These events have included the November 2016 rally and parade for the Chicago Cubs World Series win, which the City of Chicago estimates had an attendance of 5 million people, making it the largest gathering ever in the United States and the seventh largest gathering in world history.  By any measure, this makes the Chicago Police experts at handling crowds. This sort of real world expertise helps make this new guidebook quite useful.

Note: OSCE ODIHR stands for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. OSCE has 57 participating nations on 3 continents of Europe, North America, and Asia.

In this guidebook, "assembly" specifically means a protest of some sort.  These guidebook lists "meetings, rallies, pickets, demonstrations, marches, processions, parades and flash mobs."  Glaringly absent is almost any mention of camping or tent protests, which have been prevalent worldwide over the past 5 years.  Page 13 of the guidebook makes this statement, but fails to call it "camping," and fails to mention tents: "Though they (protests) are usually of temporary nature, they may also last for considerable time, with their semi-permanent structures in place for several months." After this brief mention, the topic of camping as a protest is dropped.  In fact, since the Occupy protests, camping protests have become popular worldwide.

Also missing is any mention of a sit-in, which is a short or long term residence inside a building.  Another term used for this is occupation.  For example, in January 2016, armed protesters at the Maleur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon took over a lodge-like park office building that was closed for the season.  This was called an occupation, an armed occupation, a stand-off.

Camping and sit-in protests involve the occupation and exclusive use of space meant to be shared by others. These protests are often highly effective at galvanizing dissent and thus, may be highly useful to a democracy.  They are also where law enforcement most needs to be guided and restrained.  If you have been paying attention to the recent police actions against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allied protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline that proposes to send oil through several U.S. States, you have seen protesters sprayed with water in freezing temperatures, attacked with chemical weapons, and injured with projectiles shot from guns. The "No DAPL" protesters have a huge groundswell of support and appear to be holding ground on land that rightly belongs to their tribe.  Yet, stories of abuse by law enforcement against the protesters are cropping up daily.  The photos and videos are hard to deny.

Flash mobs are also listed in the "Types of Assemblies"  (pg 15), but are only minimally addressed thereafter.  This may be because a peaceful flash mob will usually be over and gone before there can be any police response.

Another topic that is missing from the guidebook is the manner of making arrests.  This is glossed over.  In the U.S., there has developed a widespread practice of police forcing a person to the ground to arrest the person.  This has led to many cases of injury and to physical abuse committed by police.  The arrestee is often ordered or forced to the ground, usually for no apparent reason.  Often, a police officer places a knee into the back of the person on the ground.  This surely causes injury to anyone and has been known to cause severe injury and death. Numerous videos show multiple police officers piling onto a person on the ground. Many videos show the person on the ground being kicked, beaten, or even shot (though shooting is usually in individual encounters and not in protest situations.)  The method and manner of arrest is an issue of dire, immediate importance in human rights with regard to policing.  The guidebook would have been far more balanced if the panel had included those who plan and participate in protests, rather than such a theory-only based panel.  It is way past time for any groups interested in human rights to address the manner and method of making an arrest.

Another topic that is missing is the widespread practice of targeting peaceful leaders for arrest.  Again, including panelists with real protest experience would have been useful.  Leaders of protests are often "picked off" by police in what are essentially random kidnappings.  Again, there is often video to show that such arrests come about with no provocation or need.

Another major topic that the guidelines do not address is the jamming or other interference with wifi or phone signals, and/or the use of stingrays to gather data from devices.  These actions by police to sabotage personal and journalistic media and communications should be prohibited.

 Thus, I suggest that in future versions of such OSCE ODIHR guidebooks on policing for protests:
  1.  That additional panelists be included to reflect a more well-rounded viewpoint, including those who plan and participate in protests;
  2.  That camping protests be addressed;
  3. That sit-in or occupation protests be addressed;
  4. That the specific method and manner of arrests be addressed and that police be prohibited from requiring or forcing any person to lie on the ground;
  5. That the practice of targeting peaceful leaders for arrest be prohibited.
  6. That police should be prohibited from jamming or interfering with wifi or phone signals or from using stingrays to gather data.

Among the positive highlights of the guidebook as the topics relate to the protesters or those engaged in the assembly , I have found these things (These are being numbered for use in referencing them; they are not in any order of importance.)

1. Freedom of peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right and, as such, is considered one of the cornerstones of a democratic society. (pg 12)

2. That protests often block traffic or cause inconvenience: "Many assemblies will also cause some degree of disruption to routine activities; they may occupy roads and thoroughfares or impact traffic, pedestrians and the business community. Such disruption caused by the exercise of fundamental freedoms must be treated with some degree of tolerance. It must be recognized that public spaces are as much for people to assemble in as they are for other types of activity, and thus the right to assemble must be facilitated. (pg 13)

3. That there must be a balancing act between the different people wishing to use the space: "Where peaceful protest interferes with the rights and freedoms of others it will often be the responsibility of the police to balance respect for of those rights with the right to freedom of assembly." (pg 14)

4. That there is a human right to peaceful assembly, but not to engage in violence against property or people:  "The right to assemble is a right to assemble peacefully. There is no right to act in a violent manner when exercising one’s right to assemble. If an individual acts violently while participating in an assembly, then that individual is no longer exercising a protected human right. However, violent acts by isolated individuals do not necessarily affect the right to assemble of those who remain peaceful." (pg 15)

5. Even if the protesters fail to comply with regulations (such as local regulations that may require a permit) police should still facilitate the protest:  "It should be noted that even though an assembly organizer or individual participants may fail to comply with legal requirements for assemblies, this alone does not release the police from their obligation to protect and facilitate an assembly that remains peaceful." (pg 15)

6. What is "peaceful assembly"?   "Peaceful Assembly: An assembly should be deemed peaceful if the organizers have professed peaceful intentions and the conduct of the participants is non-violent. Peaceful intention and conduct should be presumed unless there is compelling and demonstrable evidence that those organizing or participating in that particular event themselves intend to use, advocate or incite imminent violence. The term “peaceful” should be interpreted to include expressive conduct that may annoy or give offence, and even conduct that temporarily hinders, impedes or obstructs the  activities of third parties. 2 An assembly should be considered peaceful, and thus facilitated by the authorities, even if the organizers have not complied with all legal requirements. Lack of such compliance should not be an excuse to inhibit, disrupt or try to prevent an assembly." (pg. 14-15)

7. What is not "peaceful assembly"? "Assemblies that incite hatred, violence or war, aim to deliberately restrict or deny the rights of others or aim to intimidate, harass or threaten others, in violation of applicable law, are not considered to be protected assemblies. Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law, and that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.” (pg 15)

8. If some of the protesters are violent, police should deal with those individuals and not deny the whole group the right to assemble: "If individuals or small groups of people engage in acts of physical violence during an assembly, the police should always ensure that their response is proportionate and focuses on those who are engaged in violent behaviour rather than directed at the participants in the assembly more generally. This is true whether the violence is directed against the police, individuals, property, people within the assembly or those perceived to be in opposition."  (pg 18)

Example from recent news: Such a situation was seen at a recent protest in Portland, Oregon, after the 2016 presidential election.  A very large protest took place.  A small subset of individuals came armed with bats and metal bars, and broke windows on shops and smashed the windows and metal on cars.  The Portland police were heard on videos telling those not engaged in the violence to separate themselves from the violent protesters and go protest at a different location where peaceful protests were being held.  The police then declared the area a riot and stated that all present were under arrest.  Overall, it appeared that the Portland police did a good job of protecting the rights of the peaceful protesters while being able to arrest a significant number of the violent protesters.

9. Costs of Policing should not be charged to protesters or organizers.  Insurance coverage should not be required: "The costs of providing adequate security and safety (including policing and traffic management operations) should be fully covered by the public authorities. The state must not levy any financial charge for providing adequate policing. Organizers of non-commercial public assemblies should not be required to obtain public-liability insurance for their event." (pg 21)

NOTE:  I would like to see this expanded to say that a City should open its available public restrooms for use by those in an assembly or protest.  Other nearby facilities, such as park benches, picnic tables, public transportation stations and bus stops, drinking fountains and water spigots, electrical outlets, bicycle racks, and other existing facilities should be open and their use not denied to protesters.

10. Police should not interfere with or restrict media journalists.  No distinction should be made between media organizations and independent journalists.  People should be allowed to video or photograph the police.  Police should not confiscate or damage cameras, cell phones, or other equipment of the journalists. (pgs 33-34)

11. That police officers may never act as agents provocateurs: "That officers must not act as agents provocateurs and may never instigate, participate or incite illegal actions within the assembly." (pg 71)  This topic is limited to a single sentence, but should instead be printed in huge bold letters taking up an entire page.  There are many stories of police acting as agents provocateurs and trying to incite violence or entrap protesters.  It is heartening to see this despicable practice prohibited by OSCE ODIHR.

12. Policing Strategy:  Part II of the guidebook, which is pages 42-125, deals with the police planning and strategy.  Topics include the use of water cannons, chemical agents, impact round (less than lethal weapons), and firearms.  Notably absent is discussion of the use of a sound cannon or LRAD.   If you are involved in planning protests or in giving legal advice or assistance to those who do plan protests, you should read this entire section.  It will give you a picture of the details of planning, infrastructure, and expense that go into running a police force that can properly handle public assemblies. (pgs 42-125)  It can also help you understand the rights of protesters and how to protect them from harm.  Although each city in the U.S. and each city worldwide all have different specific laws regarding public assembly, there is a commonality to the approach.  This guidebook is an attempt to get the OSCE member nations all on the same framework of respect for human rights in peaceful assemblies.

NOTE: My personal observation has been that the more organizers and protesters or participants in public assemblies are aware of the laws, rules, regulations, and practices of the police and city, the more likely the protest is to be peaceful.   The more people can engage in peaceful protest, the better the democracy.  Protest and assembly are basic human rights that lead to better government.

So, too, the more aware that people are of the possibility that there may be people who show up at a peaceful protest with the intent of disrupting it with violence or chaos, the more likely the peaceful ones are to separate themselves from the violence.  Knowledge is a powerful thing.

More about OSCE:

The OSCE has 57 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America:
    • Albania
    • Andorra
    • Armenia
    • Austria
    • Azerbaijan
    • Belarus
    • Belgium
    • Bosnia and Herzegovina
    • Bulgaria
    • Canada
    • Croatia
    • Cyprus
    • Czech Republic
    • Denmark
    • Estonia
    • Finland
    • France
    • Georgia
    • Germany
    • Greece
    • Holy See
    • Hungary
    • Iceland
    • Ireland
    • Italy
    • Kazakhstan
    • Kyrgyzstan
    • Latvia
    • Liechtenstein
    • Lithuania
    • Luxembourg
    • Malta
    • Moldova
    • Monaco
    • Mongolia
    • Montenegro
    • Netherlands
    • Norway
    • Poland
    • Portugal
    • Romania
    • Russian Federation
    • San Marino
    • Serbia
    • Slovakia
    • Slovenia
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • Tajikistan
    • the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
    • Turkey
    • Turkmenistan
    • Ukraine
    • United Kingdom
    • United States
    • Uzbekistan


About my involvement with OSCE ODIHR: Susan Basko, the author of this article, is a lawyer in the United States of America. Among other things, she assists those who want to plan a protest.  She is open in helping people from the wide spectrum of political and personal viewpoints.  IN 2012, she assisted OSCE ODIHR in a study of protests throughout the world, with her expertise being lent to the U.S. protests taking place in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California.  Ms. Basko was invited by OSCE ODIHR to participate in a summit of leaders and activists from around the globe.  That meeting was held in Vienna, Austria. Ms. Basko contributed by making proposals for international laws to require nations not to interfere with internet or phone signals during a protest.  That proposal was accepted by the assembly and became part of the recommendations for laws sent to the 57 participating nations.  Ms. Basko sees OSCE ODIHR as the organization making the biggest impact worldwide to protect the human rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the media.

Planning Against Terrorism in Protests

Planning Against Terrorism in Protests
by Susan Basko, esq.
On August 12, 2017, a man named James Alex Fields drove his car at a fast speed through a large group of protesters, as seen in the short video above.  The video is credited to Brennan Gilmore, who was present at the protest live streaming video. Mr. Fields has been arrested and charged with murder and other counts.  The protest and terror act took place in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Let's talk about protest planning and how to lessen the opportunities for similar terrorist acts.  People engaging in such violent acts are usually mentally unstable, and their acts in turn inspire other mentally unstable people.  Monkey see, monkey do.  If you are planning a protest now, you need to plan with major safety consideration in mind.

First, notice how the street in the video above is narrow, with low sidewalks and buildings closely lining each side. This bowling alley type set-up gives a driver intent on mowing down people an ideal set up.  The people are condensed and concentrated in the narrow street, with very few places to escape the car racing up from behind.

Plan your location and route in advance of your protest.  Actually go out in person, or use google street view if you cannot go in person.  Look for protective barriers. When you plan a protest, look for such things as:

  • Barriers before a street, to make it more difficult for a driver to enter.
  • High curbs.
  • On a bridge, barriers of at least one foot between the road and sidewalk.
  • Large cement planters and other large objects that can blockade a vehicle.
  • Places to escape to, such as courtyards, other streets, large buildings that are open, parks, beaches, etc. The route should have many escape routes.  
  • Avoid marches and rallies near any multi-story parking garages. These can be accessed by anyone and can be used by a sniper.

Consider asking for a police escort, so that the rear of your march is somewhat protected. However, note that in Charlottesville, the attack car plowed through the crowd of people and then smashed into another vehicle, which then smashed into a third vehicle.  Some of the worst injuries occurred to people sandwiched between the vehicles.  It may be that an attacker is less likely to drive into a marked police vehicle. It depends how brazen the attacker is.  Many such attackers plan to die as part of their attack and they may be attracted to encounters with police.

If you are holding a rally, look for a place that has protective barriers.  Most federal buildings have barriers designed specifically to prevent a car attack.  Let's look at some examples.

Federal Building, Chicago
This picture shows a Federal Building in Chicago.  Notice the large barriers.  Barriers like this should prevent most vehicles from getting past.  However, the barriers here protect only the building and the small adjacent plaza area. There are not such barriers to protect the large plaza area by the Post Office next door, which is where most protests and other public gatherings take place.  

This photo shows another Federal Building across the street.  Notice the barriers.

Plaza outside Post Office in downtown Chicago
This is the adjacent public plaza, in front of the Post Office.  This plaza lacks protection.  This is where many protest rallies are held in Chicago.  Maybe barriers should be erected?  If you hold a protest here, be aware of the dangerous layout. 

Daley Plaza, Chicago
This is Daley Plaza in Chicago, where many protest rallies are held.  Notice how the edges of the plaza are unprotected -- low curb, no barriers.  The center of the plaza is protected by a barrier of concrete benches and planters.  These are probably enough to stop or disable a vehicle.

Daley Plaza, Chicago 

Notice that the plaza center has a variety of types of barriers: concrete benches, concrete planters, steel fencing for a subway staircase, cement barrier walls for the subway, and posts.

STREET MEDICS. Another Safety Planning consideration is to be sure your protest group has trained medics in the crowd, carrying supplies.  At this article, you can see a picture of a terribly injured woman, and a second photo of her after she has been given First Aid by a Street Medic.  This street medic did an amazing job of getting this woman cleaned up and her head bandaged.  In the aftermath of this terrorist attack, having medics on hand to give First Aid while awaiting ambulances and EMTs gave crucial and probably life-saving support.  Don't expect your medics to pay for their own supplies. That should be an expense undertaken by the group.

What to Put in your Street Medic First Aid Kit:

Street Medic Guide:

High quality, experienced live streamers can provide a measure of safety because they can see and identify trouble while it is brewing.  Their videos also provide excellent witness immediately and later during any trial.  At the Charlottesville terrorist attack, live streamers provided clear views of the attack, as well as the color, make and model of the car, and a clear view of the license plate number.  This allowed for certainty in identifying and apprehending the attacker.  People of the Internet had posted the ownership and sales records of the car within minutes of the attack.  Shortly after, there was a whole history of the suspect posted online.  Shortly after, reporters visited his stunned mother.  No doubt, the videos helped shape the criminal charges and will influence any further charges.

  1. Safety First.  Know when to cancel.
  2. Rallies: Look for safety factors in any rally location: barriers, escape routes, lack of multi-story parking lots.
  3. March Routes: Look for high curbs, barriers on bridges between street and sidewalks, avoid narrow, closed-in streets, look for plenty of escape routes, consider asking for police escort.
  4. Street Medics: Recruit well-trained street medics carrying supplies.
  5. Cameras: Invite experienced live streamers and photographers.  

Where You Can Protest in Chicago
and How

 Where You Can Protest in Chicago and How

Here is a basic beginner summary of Where You Can protest in Chicago:

PROTESTING is legal!  That is the most important thing you need to know.

Summed up, in Chicago, you can plan a protest WITH NO PERMIT NEEDED if you plan it for a publicly-owned sidewalk in the main area of the City  or a publicly-owned plaza.  If you are planning your first protest, you want to do it as legally as possible and as cheaply as possible.  There will be glitches that might happen anyway, but you want it to go as smoothly as possible from your side.

Basic Rule: No Permit needed for protest at Public Plaza or Public Sidewalk in main area of city.

The MAIN publicly owned plazas in Chicago are Richard J. Daley Center Plaza (by the Daley building on Dearborn - Clark - Washington - Randolph), the  State of Illinois James R. Thompson Center plaza   (on Clark - LaSalle - Randolph - Lake)  and the Federal Plaza (by the Post Office on Adams - Jackson - Dearborn - Clark).  It is logical to pick the plaza that represents what you are protesting -- if it is a city issue (Daley), state issue (Thompson), or federal issue (Federal plaza).  You don't have to protest at the most apt location, but it makes sense to direct your protest at the people or institutions from which you seek redress of your grievances. That is Constitutional language.

In Chicago, the three main public plazas are also notable for their big sculptures.  If you are planning a protest in any of these locations, you can send out a picture of the sculpture and tell people to meet up by the sculpture.  These make great landmarks for people who do not know their way around the City.

Daley Center Picasso:
Daley Center plaza has plenty of space, but often has such things as holiday festivals.
Photo by Susan Basko.  Picasso sculpture in Daley Center plaza.

State of Illinois James R. Thompson Center's Jean Dubuffet:
The State of Illinois Thompson Center plaza has very limited space.  The upside is that during weekday business hours, there are a food court and public bathrooms in the basement of the building.

Photo by Premundo. Public Domain use.
Thompson Center with Dubuffet Scupture out front.
Chicago Federal Plaza Alexander Calder "Flamingo":
This plaza has plenty of space and there will often be other protest groups at same time.  Sometimes there will be a farmer's market or craft fair going, but there should still be space for a protest.
Photo by Jeremy A., Fair Use.
ChicagoFederal Plaza Alexander Calder "Flamingo" sculpture.

Some protests will target the sidewalk in front of the exact building where the topic of their protest occurs, such as a county building, immigration office, etc.  You need to do your research and go on a reconnaissance mission to be sure you are choosing the correct location.

You can also march on the public sidewalks to your heart's content, but let others pass on the sidewalk. Tell your protesters to be polite to others and to offer information if asked.  A lot of people want to know what is being protested, what your main talking points are.  It's nice if your protesters can sum it up in a single sentence, with more detail for those in the public who want to know more. That's how your protest can educate the public and possibly win them over.

Some experienced protest organizers run protests in public and private buildings, in the parks, or close traffic by marching in streets.  Usually these are people who are willing to get arrested.  Fairness dictates that if you want people to attend, you should run your protest legally so that your protesters' lives are not disrupted by arrest.  Let the first protest you plan be safe, legal, and a good experience for all involved.

and on to the show:
“There is no where to practice free speech in Chicago,” tweeted someone at the Occupy Chicago protests, which have been repeatedly kicked out by the police.  This is a guide to WHERE YOU CAN PROTEST IN CHICAGO AND HOW, with quotes from the pertinent sections of the law.

Chicago has certainly greatly curtailed Free Speech and Assembly with the following:

in the Chicago Parks – Gatherings of over 50 people or that use a sound system require a permit, a permit fee, and various expenses. This should not be. There should be designated Free Speech areas, such as Washington Square Park by Newberry Library, which was Chicago's premiere free speech park; and the park space at Michigan Avenue and Congress, known as Congress Plaza ( also known as "the horse" for the historic horse statue there), from which protesters were recently arrested for violating park closing time. No such designated Free Speech and Assembly space exists, and that is a shame, since these rights are being given the chill in most  Chicago locations.   MAP OF GRANT PARK, CHICAGO

Picasso Sculpture in Daley Plaza, Chicago

PlazasDaley Plaza.  Chicago over-books Daley Plaza with all sorts of events, that while charming, use up the one main space that Chicagoans should have available for free speech and assembly. The plaza is even rented to commercial markets. “Rallies” can book the space far in advance, and if they don’t build any stages or other structures and don’t use any set-up workers or electricity from the building, can use the space for free. Still, it seems one space on the plaza should be reserved for First Amendment activity any day, and one day each week should be reserved only for First Amendment activity. Perhaps Free Speech Wednesdays? In addition, every evening should be available for free speech rallies.   By law, a public plaza can be used any time 24/7, with no permit, for free speech and assembly.   But if the space is filled with a holiday village or a crafts fair, how can this happen?

State of Illinois Thompson Building Plaza. This building should have a robust First Amendment system in place, and instead has a commercial building management booking spaces for high prices to commercial enterprises. A recent peaceful nighttime vigil in honor of Scott Olsen, a marine critically wounded by a police officer in Oakland, was met at the Thompson Plaza by an intimidating line of police in tactical gear. That chills free speech, to say the least. Such actions by the State make people feel they are somehow wrong or criminal to peaceably assemble for free speech purposes.  Heavy police presence at a peaceful vigil service was ugly and un-American.


In Chicago law, there are two types of protests: Rallies (public assemblies), and marches.  Rallies stay in one place and marches move.  Many or most marches begin and/or end with a rally.  A rally has to take place in a public plaza, or in a park space if you have a permit for the park space.  The march can take place on the sidewalk, or on the street if you have a permit for a street march.

THE EASIEST TYPE OF PROTEST in Chicago that does not need a permit or insurance is a simple rally in a public plaza followed or started by a sidewalk march.  To avoid the permit, your group must stay out of the street and not erect any structures and not block the flow of vehicle or pedestrian traffic.  If there is another group that has reserved the plaza, your group cannot interfere with them. 

Chicago law treats different types of public places differently for public assembly purposes.  I have grouped the types of locations and listed the regulations that apply to each.  I also added pertinent sections of the Noise Ordinances, as well as Chicago's Disorderly Conduct law.

PRIVATELY-OWNED PLACES:  Keep in mind -- PRIVATELY-OWNED places are never available for protest activity.  That includes shopping malls, private college campuses, businesses or offices, anyone's home, etc.  First Amendment exists between the government and the people only.  Illinois Criminal Code 720ILCS 5/ Art.21.1) specifically prohibits "picketing" outside anyone's residence, other than outside your own.  Flash Mobs: Some people DO plan flash mob protests on private property, and you can read about those HERE.

MEDICAL FACILITIES/ CHURCHES: Protesting is not allowed near hospitals, clinics, or any other type of medical facility, or near or in places of worship.  If you plan such a protest, consult first with a lawyer.  Chicago law prohibits making any noise or otherwise disrupting any religious service.

IN Chicago, the types of public spaces where you are likely to hold a protest are: (see the detailed explanations further below)

I) inside of public buildings, such as City Hall;

II) sidewalk, not interfering with vehicular or pedestrian traffic flow;

III) sidewalk, not interfering with vehicular traffic, but reasonably expected to interfere with pedestrian traffic;

IV) street, requiring street closure or rerouting of traffic;

V) public plazas, that is, publicly-owned plazas open to the public.

VI) park property. Park property is divided into parks, beaches and golf courses. This post deals only with parks, not beaches or golf courses.



* * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I) INSIDE PUBLIC BUILDINGS: MEETINGS: If you wanted to hold a protest inside a building owned by the City, you would need a permit, but one would never be given. But you can protest on the public sidewalk outside, just not too near the doorways. If you want to attend and watch or speak at City Council, a Council Committee, the School Board, Park District board, or other such meeting, you can check online for the schedules, locations, and rules for being allowed to speak. For the most part, you can come to such a meeting with the people in your group, but you probably won’t be allowed to make noise, probably won’t be allowed to carry signs, and will have to follow the agenda and time limits on speaking. If you want your topic to be on the agenda, you need to read up on how to make that happen.

Some people go in groups to the office of the Mayor or Governor trying to spontaneously get a meeting or to drop off a petition or document. These officials are usually not in their offices, though sometimes a friendly staff person will talk with a group. If you really want to set up a meeting, call ahead and ask to schedule a meeting. Dress and act professionally if you want to be taken seriously.

Protest groups often DO protest in public buildings, but they usually do so with the intent and plan that they are going to get arrested.  Sometimes they will sit in a hall or block elevators.  In Chicago, the police or security will usually warn the group, and will often ask each person if they want to leave or be arrested.  

  This is the most common form of protest in Chicago where you do not need a permit.  You have the right to march in protest on the public sidewalk. If you take up only half of the sidewalk and do not impede the normal flow of pedestrian traffic and if all of your group stops faithfully at each crosswalk and follows the “walk” signal, then you may do so without informing anyone or getting a permit. However, you must be careful with the rules about noise and any amplifying system, and with any musicians, such as drummers. This will be covered further below.

Illinois Criminal Code 720ILCS 5/ Art.21.1) specifically prohibits "picketing" outside anyone's residence, other than outside your own.

If you are holding a sidewalk march, you should tell the participants to be polite to others on the sidewalk, not to bump into people, not to curse, etc.

DRUMMERS: Drummers are okay as long as it is not night and as long as the march is not near an outdoor concert, or near a church or religious building that is holding services, and not near a hospital with sick patients staying inside.  If your march keeps moving along, your drum noise also moves along, and no one will be too bothered by it.  However, if you situate your protest in one location and have nonstop drumming, there are bound to be complaints.

March must move. Chicago Police sometimes show up at sidewalk protests that intend to stay in one location and enforce a "keep moving" policy where they make the protesters keep walking in a big loop.  Maybe this technicality makes it a protest march?  If you want to stay in one place, that is a rally, and you need to do that in a publicly-owned plaza. Read on that below.

 If you are going to impede normal flow of pedestrian traffic, Chicago law says to inform the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation of your intent, as explained just below.

Crossing the river: If your march is in downtown Chicago and you start south of the river, and you try to cross to north of the river, the police will not likely allow this.  This may or may not be a legal limitation, but it is likely to happen.  The City now considers North Michigan Avenue more or less off-limits for protests, because there have been problems with flash mob robberies and large annoying groups.  If you want to avoid trouble, don't plan your protest north of the river on Michigan Avenue. If you do plan it there for some reason, you will most likely run into trouble or arrests.

III) SIDEWALK, REASONABLY EXPECTED TO INTERFERE WITH VEHICLE OR PEDESTRIAN TRAFFIC: For this, you must contact the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, as the laws below explain.

Commissioner of the Department of Transportation Permit Office:  
The permit office is open weekdays (excluding holidays) between 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM and is located at:
City Hall – Room 905
121 North La Salle Street
Tel: 312-744-4652 Fax: 312-744-4627 

PUBLIC ASSEMBLY:  In Chicago law, “public assembly" is defined as “(I) a company of persons which is reasonably anticipated to obstruct the normal flow of traffic upon the public way and that is collected together in one place, or (ii) any organized march or procession of persons upon any public sidewalk that is reasonably anticipated to obstruct the normal flow of pedestrian traffic on the public way, but which does not meet the definition of parade set forth in this subsection.”

“Public assembly” requires you to contact the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation five days in advance, or as soon as practicable if must hold your public assembly asap because it is spontaneous or of an urgent nature.

How to Get the Permit for a Public Assembly:

10-8-330 Parade, public assembly or athletic event.( r ) Any person or organization planning to lead or initiate any type of public assembly, including a march or procession upon a public sidewalk, as defined in subsection (a), shall notify the commissioner, at least five business days in advance, or as soon as practicable if the event is of a spontaneous or urgent nature, and shall inform him or her of the date, time, location, route and estimated number of persons participating, so that the city can make any preparations necessary to provide personnel or other city services to minimize the obstruction to pedestrian and other traffic and to otherwise protect the participants and the public. Such public assemblies shall be allowed unless the commissioner informs the person or organization giving the notice, within two days or as soon as practicable before the scheduled event, that there would be a direct interference with a previously planned permitted activity or public assembly, or that there is a significant public safety issue, limited to those set forth for parades in subsection (h)(1) – (3). If the commissioner does this, he or she must state the reasons in writing and give an alternative date, time, location or route, as provided for parades in subsections (j) and (l) herein. If the public assembly organizer desires to appeal such decision, then the appeal shall be governed by the procedures set forth for parade permits in subsection (m) herein, if the notification was received in sufficient time that the appeals process could be completed before the planned date; if not, the decision by the commissioner shall be deemed a final decision subject to judicial review in accordance with applicable law. Upon request, the commissioner will provide the organizer of the public assembly with a stamped copy of the notice given under this subsection.

How Does the Commissioner Decide?

(h) After such investigation, the commissioner shall issue a permit when he or she finds that:

(1) the proposed activity will not substantially or unnecessarily interfere with traffic in the area contiguous to the activity, or that, if the activity will substantially interfere with such traffic, that there are available at the time of the proposed activity sufficient city resources to mitigate the disruption;

(2) there are available at the time of the parade or athletic event a sufficient number of peace officers and traffic control aides to police and protect lawful participants in the activity and non-participants from traffic related hazards in light of the other demands for police protection at the time of the proposed event or activity;

(3) the concentration of persons, animals, vehicles or things at the assembly and disbanding areas and along the parade or athletic event route will not prevent proper fire and police protection or ambulance service;

(4) “Business days” means those days in which municipal offices are open for conducting city business and does not include Saturday, Sunday or such holidays as are listed in Section 2-152-090.

IV) STREETS: PROTEST MARCH OR RALLY WHERE STREET CLOSING IS NEEDED: A permit is required. In Chicago law, a “parade” “means any march, procession or other similar activity consisting of persons, animals, vehicles or things, or combination thereof, upon any public street, sidewalk, alley or other public place, which requires a street closing or otherwise requires police officers to stop or reroute vehicular traffic because the marchers will not comply with normal and usual traffic regulations or controls. “Large parade” means any parade that is held in the “central business district”, as defined in Section 9-4-010, and any parade that is anticipated to require city services exceeding $20,000.00 in value, to be adjusted for inflation in a manner specified by regulation.”

The process of getting a permit to close a street in Chicago is quite complex, and First Amendment protest activities compete with all kinds of ethnic parades, holiday parades, sporting events, as well as with all the other protest groups. Many of the bigger parades are long-standing annual events, and those groups vie for their time slots by showing up as soon as the permit office opens after the New Year. If you want to close a street in Chicago so you can hold a protest, you are best to consult with a lawyer and have help in learning the application process and putting your best foot forward.

V) PUBLIC PLAZAS IN CHICAGO: People should be able to protest freely in public plazas. In Chicago, plazas in parks are controlled under parks law, which is below, and parks close at 11 pm. The non-park plazas should be available for free speech activity 24 hours a day with no reservations required, but that is not the case in Chicago. This is a big problem and is probably unconstitutional. No matter what is going on with the plazas in Chicago these days, you should still be able to protest on the public sidewalk surrounding the plazas. Also, if any area of free speech needs to be clarified asap, it is use of these public plazas.  NOTE: The plaza along Michigan Avenue nicknamed "The Horse" is a park plaza, and therefore, has a closing time.

CHICAGO PUBLIC PLAZAS: Chicago’s main downtown public plazas are:

Daley Plaza, as seen from the west.

Daley Plaza, which is owned by the City. It is located on Washington Street between Dearborn and Clark (118 North Clark). This is the place with the Picasso sculpture. This area should be reserved for Free Speech activities by the people of Chicago, and instead is booked with “cultural programming,” every day at noon, Farmer’s Markets, events for Halloween, Oktoberfest, Christmas and on and on. A protest group should be able to at least fit itself into some corner of the plaza, or at very least, use half the public sidewalk around the perimeter.

Where are the people of Chicago supposed to go to peaceably assemble for redress of government? The City of Chicago has completely “programmed” its plazas and parks to prevent any meaningful First Amendment activity.  This is most likely against the U.S. Constitution and I would like to see someone go to court on this.  Better yet -- I'd like to see the City administration change this serious problem on its own accord.

The Daley Plaza now requires an application to hold a ‘rally” at the plaza. The application must go in 30-365 days in advance. Obviously, the further in advance you get it in, the more likely you are to get your desired date and time. You will need to buy insurance for any “erection or construction of displays, structures or exhibits.” If your rally will not do such things, you do not need insurance. If you do not need assistance from the building staff for any equipment or electrical set-up, and if you do not require insurance, then there is no fee. If you require any of those things, there is a fee of $250 for two hours, and an additional $100 for each extra hour, for a total up to $750. This is the application:

State of Illinois Building, James R. Thompson Center Plaza, 100 West Randolph Street. This is the State of Illinois building with a Jean Dubuffet sculpture out front. This is the Clark and Lake CTA train stop, where many train lines from all parts of the city stop. This makes it an ideal centralized location for a protest. Any protest should be able to show up at the plaza and protest in a peaceful way as long as they keep away from the windows. The Lake Street side of the building is best to avoid, because it is too narrow a space between the street and the glass windows and doors, and is where the entry to the CTA station is located. The larger area on the Randolph Street side is best for any protest rally or ceremony. To contact the building office in advance:

Wilma Wilbon
Special Events Director
James R. Thompson Center
Chicago, IL 60601-3220
Phone: 312-814-6676
TDD: 312-793-3500

Kluczynski Federal Building Plaza, 50 West Adams. This plaza is part of the federal government and has a red steel sculpture by Alexander Calder. The plaza has a Farmer’s Market. The space is large and should be a prime location for vibrant, peaceful Free Speech Assembly.  Marysia Davis is the property manager, 312-353-4475.


Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, Millennium Park, Chicago

MILLENNIUM PARK: Millennium Park is its own little fiefdom. From the Parks law: “Millennium Park: (d) The commissioner is authorized to enter into use agreements for the temporary use of space and facilities in the Park. The commissioner shall only enter into use agreements that the commissioner determines enhance and are consistent with the unique nature of the Park, but in no event shall the commissioner discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion, partisan political affiliation, or viewpoint of the applicant seeking a use agreement, or on any other basis prohibited by the Constitution of the United States or the State of Illinois.”

Translation: Millennium Park is too fancy pants for protest riff-raff. However, protesters should be able to march on one-half the width of the public sidewalk around the perimeter of the park, as long as you are not violating the sound ordinance (not using amplifiers or megaphones in violation of law) and do not have drummers, since no street performers are allowed on the sidewalk abutting Millennium Park. You might argue that these are not street performers, but if you are making loud noise on the perimeter of Millennium Park, you are most likely to be forced to leave.


 CLOSING TIME:  All Chicago parks are closed from 11 pm to 4 am. That means you have to leave by 11 pm or you are subject to arrest.  In most instances, the police will give you the option to leave before you are arrested.



PERMITS NEEDED FOR PROTEST IN A PARK: If you plan an event with 50 or more people, you need a park permit. A permit is also needed for any use of tents, to reserve a specific location, or to use sound amplification equipment. Any tent with a surface area over 240 square feet surface area must have a building permit. Tents may only be up and in use for 60 consecutive days. Where a tent is in use, there should be portable toilets also in place. There are other requirements regarding electricity and cooking near any tent.

PERMITS NOT NEEDED FOR PROTEST IN PARK IF: IF your protest is under 50 people, IF you are not using tents or sound equipment, and IF you are flexible about location in case someone else has reserved your desired spot, you should not need a park permit. HOWEVER, there is a strict closing time of 11 pm and you are subject to arrest if you do not leave by 11 pm. Keep in mind, you can always be on half the width of the public sidewalk (not the sidewalk within the park). Also, keep in mind, this does not apply to Millennium Park, which reserves its own spaces.  Also, any sound you make in a park cannot interfere with any other event that got a permit to use space nearby.

If you are planning an event in the parks, you may need to secure a Special Event Permit in order to proceed with your event. Certain activities that require a Special Event Permit may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • events with 50 or more participants
  • use of amplified sound
  • any advertising or sponsorship activities, and merchandise, etc.
  • selling/distributing any food, goods or merchandise (including exercise classes/bootcamps)
  • liquor
  • tents
  • inflatables
  • stages
  • reservation of a specific location

Please keep in mind that there are other activities or proposed event features that may require you to secure a permit. If you are unsure whether your special event will need a permit, please contact the Department of Park Services at: (312) 742-5369.

CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT: Permit Application Process:

Choose a specific park location and date for your event. (Please consult the downloadable maps on the right for lakefront locations.). You are encouraged to choose an alternative location and/or date in the event that your first choice is not available. Events of 50 or more people and those events with special features are required to secure a Special Event Permit.

 If you are unsure whether or not a permit is required for your event, please refer to the Park District Code or call the Department of Park Services at (312)742-5369.

Please be sure to complete all sections of the Special Event Permit Application. All proposed activities and events are subject to the approval of the Park District. The Park District will not consider your submittal if the application is incomplete and does not include the $35 application fee.

Submit the completed application (pages 12 through 21) and $35 application fee by email, mail, delivery in person, or fax to the Department of Park Services or appropriate Region Office. Submittal of an application does not grant you a permit or confirmation to conduct your planned event; all applications are subject to review. Completed applications with appropriate fees and requested documentation/information must be submitted at least 45 or 30 days prior to your event depending on your permit level; otherwise, late fees may apply (refer to Fees and Fee Deadlines on page 8).

PLEASE NOTE: Only applications delivered in person will be processed on January 3, 2011 beginning at 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Applications submitted by mail, e-mail and fax, and all applications received prior to 8:00 a.m. on January 3, 2011, will not be processed until January 4, 2011. The Park District cannot guarantee that all applications received prior to January 3, 2011 at 8:00 a.m. will be processed in the order received on January 4, 2011. Furthermore, only completed applications submitted with the $35 application fee will be processed.

The Park District processes applications for permits in order of receipt. The Park District will not consider your submittal without a completed application and a $35 application fee.

Upon receiving your completed application and $35 application fee, the Park District will contact you within 14 days to inform you of the status of your application. You will be informed of any remaining fees that must be paid (please see Fees and Fee Deadlines, page 8), along with any additional documentation requirements. The Park District reserves the right to require additional information or documentation regarding the applicant, applicant’s company, sponsoring company/organization, cosponsors, event participants, event vendors, event activities, or the event itself. Moreover, the Park District may postpone approval of event permits until receipt of additional requested information or documentation. Failure to submit requested information or documentation in a timely manner may be cause for denial of a park permit.

Applicants must submit two documents to satisfy insurance requirements. A (1) Certificate of General liability insurance in the amount of $1,000,000 naming the Chicago Park District as “additional insured” and the certificate holder for the date(s) of your event including set up and tear down dates. Applicants must also submit an (2) Endorsement issued by the insurance carrier. The Endorsement issued under their General Liability policy of insurance, including coverage for property damage while property is occupied by the permittee, for the event that reflects that the Chicago Park District is an additional insured for the event.

Your permit will not be issued if both the Certificate of Insurance and the Endorsement have not been received and approved 48 hours prior to an event.

Applicants are required to inform the Chicago Park District in writing of any and all amendments to the original application prior to the event day.

Once all the Park District’s requirements have been fulfilled, including receipt of all documents and full payment, a Special Event Permit will be issued.

PLEASE NOTE: Costs incurred promoting and marketing events prior to the issuance of an approved Special Event Permit from the Chicago Park District and changes/modifications relative to the event from the Chicago Park District and/or the Mayor’s Office of Special Events and other City of Chicago departments is at the sole expense and risk of the Event Organizer.

Submit the completed Special Event Permit Application to:

Chicago Park District
Department of Park Services
541 N. Fairbanks Court, 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60611

Or via Fax: (312) 742-6038
QUESTIONS: : (312) 742 - 5369

CHICAGO PARKS DO NOT ALLOW: Glass containers; alcohol; intoxication; dogs, except on leash under 6 feet; open flame or cooking except where specifically allowed.


Chicago has many noise ordinances, many of which overlap. The two below seem most apt to protests. Chicago also requires all street performers to be licensed. Do drummers performing with a protest have to be licensed? The City might argue yes. I would argue it is part of the First Amendment protest, not street performance. However, there cannot be any drumming or other loud noise after 8 pm anywhere, unless there is a permit for it, as the law below states. Also, no street performance is allowed on the sidewalk abutting Millennium Park, and in some other locations.  There is also no music street performing allowed on the sidewalks across from Millennium Park when a concert is about to start or during a concert at the Pritzker Pavillion. In other words, you cannot play music out on the street that may interfere with the outdoor concerts held in the park. Also, Chicago has “Quiet Zones” near hospitals, schools, and churches. Don’t drum after 8 pm or in any quiet zone. If you are told to stop drumming, you are most likely in violation of the complex and overlapping Chicago noise ordinances. See the laws below to properly plan noise for your protests.


Part B. Limitations on Noise from Specific Sources.

11-4-2800 Music and amplified sound.

(a) No person on the public way shall employ any device or instrument that creates or amplifies sound, including but not limited to any loudspeaker, bullhorn, amplifier, public address system, musical instrument, radio or device that plays recorded music, to generate any sound, for the purpose of communication or entertainment, that is louder than average conversational level at a distance of 100 feet or more, measured vertically or horizontally, from the source.

(b) Between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m., no person on any private open space shall employ any device or instrument that creates or amplifies sound, including but not limited to any loudspeaker, bullhorn, amplifier, public address system, musical instrument, radio or device that plays recorded music, to generate any sound, for the purpose of communication or entertainment, that is louder than average conversational level at a distance of 100 feet or more from the property line of the property from which the noise is being generated.

(c) The limitations imposed in this section do not apply to a person participating in a parade, athletic event, public assembly, or outdoor special event, as defined in section 10-8-330 or 10-8-335 of this Code; provided that a permit has been issued, if required, and the person is in compliance with the permit.


Part C. Other Limitations on Noise and Vibrations.

11-4-2900 Limitations on noise not otherwise addressed.

For any noise source not specifically addressed in Part B of this article, except where exempted or excluded by section 11-4-2920, the following general limitations shall apply:

(a) Between 8:00 P.M. and 8:00 A.M., no person shall generate any noise on the public way that is louder than average conversational level at a distance of 100 feet or more, vertically or horizontally, from the source.

(b) Between 8:00 P.M. and 8:00 A.M., no person shall generate any noise on any private open space that is louder than average conversational level at a distance of 100 feet or more, measured from the property line of the property from which the noise is being generated.

(Added Coun. J. 7-26-06, p. 81473, § 1)


8-4-010 Disorderly conduct.

A person commits disorderly conduct when he knowingly:

(a) Does any act in such unreasonable manner as to provoke, make or aid in making a breach of peace; or

(b) Does or makes any unreasonable or offensive act, utterance, gesture or display which, under the circumstances, creates a clear and present danger of a breach of peace or imminent threat of violence; or

(c) Refuses or fails to cease and desist any peaceful conduct or activity likely to produce a breach of peace where there is an imminent threat of violence, and where the police have made all reasonable efforts to protect the otherwise peaceful conduct and activity, and have requested that said conduct and activity be stopped and explained the request if there be time; or

(d) Fails to obey a lawful order of dispersal by a person known by him to be a peace officer under circumstances where three or more persons are committing acts of disorderly conduct in the immediate vicinity, which acts are likely to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, annoyance or alarm; or

(e) Assembles with three or more persons for the purpose of using force or violence to disturb the public peace; or

(f) Remains in the public way in a manner that blocks customer access to a commercial establishment, after being asked to clear the entrance by the person in charge of such establishment.

(g) Appears in any public place manifestly under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or other drug, not therapeutically administered, to the degree that he may endanger himself or other persons or property, or annoy persons in his vicinity; or

(h) Carries in a threatening or menacing manner, without authority of law, any pistol, revolver, dagger, razor, dangerous knife, stiletto, knuckles, slingshot, an object containing noxious or deleterious liquid, gas or substance or other dangerous weapon, or conceals said weapon on or about the person or vehicle; or

(i) Pickets or demonstrates on a public way within 150 feet of any primary or secondary school building while the school is in session and one-half hour before the school is in session and one-half hour after the school session has been concluded, provided that this subsection does not prohibit the peaceful picketing of any school involved in a labor dispute; or

(j) Pickets or demonstrates on a public way within 150 feet of any church, temple, synagogue or other place of worship while services are being conducted and one-half hour before services are to be conducted and one-half hour after services have been concluded, provided that this subsection does not prohibit the peaceful picketing of any church, temple, synagogue or other place of worship involved in a labor dispute.

(k) Either: (1) knowingly approaches another person within eight feet of such person, unless such other person consents, for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way within a radius of 50 feet from any entrance door to a hospital, medical clinic or healthcare facility, or (2) by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or healthcare facility.

A person convicted of disorderly conduct shall be fined not more than $500.00 for each offense.

(Prior code § 193-1; Amend Coun. J. 3-27-02, p. 82299, § 1; Amend Coun. J. 12-4-02, p. 99931, § 5.1; Amend Coun. J. 4-9-03, p. 106396, § 1; Amend Coun. J. 7-26-06, p. 81863, § 1; Amend Coun. J. 10-17-09, p. 72710, § 1)

See also:

Who are Julian Assange, Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, Jeremy Hammond, NATO3, Barrett Brown,
and Why You Should Care

Julian Assange at the Ecuadoran Embassy
 in London with "Free Jeremy Hammond" sign.  
Who are Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning,
 Jeremy Hammond, NATO3, Barrett Brown, and Why You Should Care

by Sue Basko

Update July 2017 and Recap: The Iraq Collateral Damage is posted anew below.  The other one had been removed by Youtube.  Please watch and listen to the video below to understand about this war crime.   This is the video that was freed to the public by Bradley (Chelsea) Manning and Wikileaks.  Additional updates since 2013 are that Bradley Manning is now called Chelsea Manning and has been freed from prison on order of former President Barack Obama.  Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  Barrett Brown was sent to prison on a plea deal.  While in prison, he wrote magazine articles and won a prestigious writing award.  He is now out of prison and writing a book.  Julian Assange is still living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and there is said to be a secret indictment against him in the U.S.

UPDATED January 13, 2013 - to add Barrett Brown and his indictment for posting a link to materials allegedly hacked from Stratfor.
UPDATED June 19, 2012 - Julian Assange is apparently in the care of the Ecuadorian Embassy as an asylum seeker.
UPDATED June 16, 2012 to explain UK Supreme Court refusal to reopen and possibly move to Court of Human Rights.
UPDATED MAY 30, 2012 to explain the May 30 UK Supreme Court ruling in London.

People close to Julian Assange have asked me to try to help spread the word about his situation. I have found that most people don’t seem to know who Julian is or why they should care.  I will explain the connections of the main players and the very basics:

Julian Assange is an Australian journalist, internet activist, and programmer. He founded WikiLeaks, a ground-breaking website that publishes documents, often documents obtained by hackers or classified documents obtained by other means.  The documents show truth of what our governments are doing.  The mission is to give people truth and transparency about their governments.

Bradley Manning is a U.S. Army soldier.  He was working as a computer analyst.  There was an absolutely horrific war crime committed by U.S. soldiers against civilians in Iraq.  Iraq is the nation in the Middle East that the U.S. invaded in 1990 and then again in 2003.

The war crime can be seen in the video below on this page.  PLEASE WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW.  The video is of a gunner in a helicopter over an Iraq suburb claiming that people on the ground are armed with AK-47s and shooting, and he asks to “engage” them, meaning kill them. In fact, there are no AK-47s or anything that looks like an AK-47.  There are two men carrying camera bags that look like camera bags.  They were photographers.  After all those people were shot, a family in a van drives up and tries to assist them, and they are also killed. 

The motive of the soldiers in this horrific killing have never been publicly revealed.  Was the gunner hallucinating? Was he on drugs? Was he suffering from PTSD that made him  so fearful of a camera bag that he would kill many people? Or was it malice?  His laughter and enjoyment and blatant lies make this look like malice and a war crime.

Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army computer analyst, allegedly put the video, encrypted, onto a CD labeled “Lady Gaga songs,” and sent it to WikiLeaks.  Anonymous, the hacker collective, allegedly decrypted the video, and WikiLeaks posted it on its website. 

The revelation of these shocking killings from a helicopter led to a hasty end to the war in Iraq.  However, instead of prosecuting the soldier who lied and killed all these people, or admit the U.S. had no business waging war in Iraq, the U.S., in particular U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, focused their attack on Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. 

Bradley Manning is on trial in a Court Martial procedure.  He has been held in solitary confinement in torture conditions for two years as of this writing. 

Julian Assange has been on house arrest in the UK.  The U.S. is trying to extradite Julian Assange to Sweden and then to the U.S. to make him answer for a secret indictment.   Please note that the extradition to Sweden is not for any crimes, but for questioning in two rape allegations, which are situations where the women have stated the FBI questioned them in manipulative ways and they disagree with rape charges against Mr. Assange. Mr. Assange has stated he has agreed to be questioned over the phone, which is allowed under Swedish law, but this has not been done.   Likely, if he is extradited to Sweden, he will then be extradited on to the U.S. to face a secret indictment that awaits him, which is explained below.  It has been reported, as if May 30, 2012, that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will arrive in Sweden on June 4, presumably to take custody of Mr. Assange.  Other reports state the U.S. FBI has been questioning Europeans over the past few weeks, trying to build a case against Mr. Assange. (Update June 19, 2012 Julian Assange is apparently in the care of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, seeking asylum, and potentially planning travel to Ecuador.)

The decision whether to allow extradition to Sweden was made by the UK Supreme  Court early this morning (May 30, 2012) in London. The Court voted to allow extradition of Mr. Assange to Sweden, stating that their current rules do not allow them to consider the charges against Mr. Assange, but merely must give authority to a European Judicial Authority, the Swedish prosecutor.  After the ruling, Mr. Assange's lawyer stated to the Court that their ruling was made upon referral to the Vienna Convention, which was not argued by either side in Court, and therefore, she asked for 14 days to apply to reopen the case.

UPDATE June 16, 2012: That appeal was denied, with the UK Supreme Court refusing to reopen the case, thus opening the way for Mr. Assange to be extradited to Sweden    However, Mr. Assange's barrister plans to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.  I think there is a chance  they could rule in his favor, as he has not been charged with any crime and has been held on house arrest for well over a year.   (Update: After these rulings, Mr. Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and has been there since.)

Jeremy Hammond, a 27 year old hacker and political activist from Chicago, allegedly hacked the website and emails of Stratfor, a private company in Texas that is allegedly hired out by the U.S. to commit spying acts against U.S. citizens in violation of the official U.S. Department of Justice rules on infiltration in citizen groups.  (You can download those rules HERE) Jeremy Hammond is a young man who hacked on a laptop in his little house in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood that he shared with many young activists.  Jeremy Hammond is likely the world’s most gifted and proficient hacker, and his list of alleged hacks is extensive and impressive.  His work was politically motivated.

The hacked emails from Stratfor revealed that Stratfor spies had been hired to infiltrate Occupy camps and groups.  The emails also revealed that a secret Grand Jury had been convened and a secret indictment against Julian Assange exists. 

Jeremy Hammond (Anarchaos), founder of the hacker training website called Hack This Site,   was arrested after being outed by Sabu, whose real name is Hector Monsegur, a relatively unskilled hacker with the group LulzSec.  Sabu, an unemployed father of two living in public housing in New York City, was arrested and quickly turned FBI informant.  While under FBI control, Sabu was doing low level hacks, tweeting hints that he had turned, and engaged in entrapping his online compatriots by urging them to “work with” him on various politically meaningless hacks.  The FBI raided Jeremy Hammond’s  Chicago house and arrested him.  Mr. Hammond was extradited to New York, where he was jailed and where after a few months, a larger indictment was brought against him.  He faces trial or a deal.  Mr.  Hammond is being held without bond in a New York facility.

Before he was arrested, Jeremy Hammond was involved in planning protests for NATO and G8.  As the NATO Summit neared in Chicago, the FBI conducted a campaign of harassment against NATO protesters and journalists.  Infiltrators were placed to entrap protesters from out of town, staying in Bridgeport, in a scheme to produce molotov cocktails, a form of bottle bomb that explodes on impact when tossed.  These charges appear to be pure entrapment.  The 3 men charged have been nicknamed the NATO3.   It has been reported that the FBI was involved in the entrapment of the NATO3, admitted there was no case, and then the prosecution was taken over by the desperate-to-impress Cook County State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez. The case is being prosecuted under the Illinois Terrorism Law, which is so broad it is surely unconstitutional.  Let’s wait and watch – the first step for the lawyers representing the NATO3 should be to challenge this ridiculously broad law.  See this post on ILLINOIS ENTRAPMENT and this on ILLINOIS TERRORISM LAW.  (You can read about the petty harassing police work against the NATO3 at Bridgeport Cops vs The Occupiers.)

IF YOU or your friends were harassed while in Chicago for NATO, keep in mind the mechanism that harassed you is the same mechanism that is holding Bradley Manning captive for telling the truth.  It is the same mechanism that is trying to extradite Julian Assange and put him on trial – for revealing the truth about horrific war crimes.  If you had your door kicked in or had guns pointed at you during Chicago NATO,  please keep in mind you are victim of the same mechanism that is punishing Bradley Manning and Julian Assange  and Jeremy Hammond. You are part of the anti-war movement and/or part of the quest to reveal truth.

War crimes should be revealed, and if it took Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Wikileaks to reveal this one, that is what it took.  The U.S. should stop tormenting these brave men for showing us the truth.  And the U.S. has no business delegating spy duties to a private company such as Stratfor.  In fact, the U.S. has no business spying on its citizens.

IF YOU WANT TO SHOW SUPPORT for Julian Assange and/or Bradley Manning, you can tweet to @StateDept which is the twitter account for the U.S. State Department and of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  You can attend rallies or spread the word.  Truth is important, and these brave men brought us truth.

 UPDATE January 13, 2013: Now we add to the list:  Barrett Brown, a journalist who sometimes spoke to the press about Anonymous, the hacker non-group.  On December 4, 2012, Barrett Brown, who was already in a Texas jail awaiting trial on federal charges related to internet threats against an FBI officer who was involved in raiding his home months earlier and who refused to return Mr. Brown's computer, was indicted for allegedly posting a link to a cache of materials from the Stratfor hack, which was allegedly conducted by Jeremy Hammond at the urging of Sabu/ Hector Monsegur.  Allegedly, there were a few credit card numbers located within the cache of materials that Barrett Brown linked to on his Project PM website.  Project PM is a collective journalism resource, but federal indictments against Mr. Brown make it sound like a terrorism activity.  Perhaps that is how the U.S. government now views journalism.    This indictment stretches the posting of a single link to 12 criminal counts.  To my knowledge, a link has never been construed as a crime, let alone a single link as 12 crimes.  This bizarrely overreaching prosecutorial conduct would be laughable, except that it is very real and Barrett faces many years in prison.
Video from July 12, 2007, suburb in Iraq