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City settles with Iraq war protesters
by Erica Demarest, Windy City Times

This article shared 2193 times since Sat Feb 11, 2012
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After nearly nine years of litigation, the city of Chicago reached a $6.2 million settlement Feb. 9 with more than 800 protestors who were wrongfully detained at a 2003 Iraq War protest.

"It's a victory, and hopefully it closes a chapter on this shameful episode in Chicago's history," said Joey Mogul, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers. "We're hopeful the ruling will be followed and will continue to protect people's rights to protest."

On March 20, 2003, more than 10,000 people gathered in downtown Chicago to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq, shutting down Lake Shore Drive in the process. Police allowed the protestors to convene without a permit, then proceeded to trap demonstrators at Chicago and Michigan, making more than 500 arrests and 350 detainments. Protestors were never told to disperse or allowed to leave.

Attorneys at the People's Law Office organized a class action lawsuit against the city of Chicago, seeking damages for what Mogul labeled as "severe" trauma.

"What was striking about [the incident] was that men, in their arrest reports, were charged with blocking vehicular and pedestrian traffic, while women had a completely different set of allegations," Mogul said. "Police accused all the women of blocking the emergency room entrance to Northwestern Hospital on Chicago Avenue, even though no such entrance even exists. It was a really interesting use of the gender binary that I've never seen before in any criminal cases."

Last year, the lawsuit got a boost when federal appellate Justice Richard Posner ruled that police did not have the right to detain peaceful protestors without issuing clear orders to disperse.

Under the Feb. 9 settlement, people who were arrested, charged and detained could receive payouts of up to $15,000; those who were arrested and released without being charged are eligible for up to $8,750; and those who were detained by police on the street would receive up to $500.

The ruling comes as city officials gear up for impending G-8 and NATO summits, which are expected to draw tens of thousands of protestors.

On. Feb. 8, the City Council overwhelmingly approved Mayor Emanuel's new protest ordinances, which increase permit fees and fines. And Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy told the Chicago Sun-Times police have learned from past mistakes.

"If you were paying attention to the way that the Chicago Police Dept. handled Occupy Chicago, there were very clear warnings given," McCarthy said. "They were videoed so that they're on tape, so that we can say, 'Yes, we have issued these warnings.' And then people received individual warnings. So we've certainly learned the lessons of the past as far as moving forward and what it is we need to do."

The city has already paid more than $300,000 to plaintiffs who sued for police brutality on the night in question, Mogul said. Among those who settled was recently deceased LGBT and AIDS activist John Pennycuff, who received $22,500 for physical injuries sustained.

Mogul urges those who were arrested or detained to contact the People's Law Office at or 773-235-0070.

This article shared 2193 times since Sat Feb 11, 2012
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