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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Court Finds Park Ordinance Constitutional as Applied to "Occupy Chicago" Protesters

The Chicago Park District Code of Ordinances prohibits people from being in the parks from 11 pm to 6 am.  Protesters affiliated with the Occupy Chicago movement were arrested when they refused to vacate Grant Park after being advised of the ordinance.  The circuit court dismissed the charges, finding that the ordinance was unconstitutional, both facially and as it was applied to the protesters. The City appealed, and the appellate court reversed, finding the ordinance constitutional.  Chicago v. Alexander, 2014 IL App 122858

The appellate court first determined that the park district had authority to keep parks safe and maintained.  Second, the court held that Chicago's nighttime hour limitations were reasonable, as content-neutral regulations.  Third, the court rejected the protesters' arguments that the ordinance was overbroad, finding that it only prohibited use of the parks for seven hours each day, leaving ample time for expressive content.  Finally, the court held that banning the protesters from camping overnight in City parks was not more restrictive than necessary and did not violate the protesters' speech rights as they had ample alternatives to express their message, including other sites where the protesters were permitted during the nighttime.  In short, the appellate court rejected the protesters' challenges to the park district ordinance.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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