Chicago Police to pay millions to anti-war protesters
Almost nine years ago, tens of thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Chicago to protest the invasion of Iraq, one of the longest wars in US history.
On Thursday lawyers on both sides of the table agreed to the sum in the class-action law that charges Chicago PD of unlawfully arresting peaceful protesters, bypassing the need for a trial that was set to kick off late March.
According to the protesters, Chicago police arrested hundreds of demonstrators without being ordered by law enforcement officials to break up the demonstration.
"I hope it sends a message that they need to treat us like citizens and not combatants," Cheryl Angelaccio, a protestor arrested in the anti-war protest, told ABC Chicago.
Lawyers of the nearly 800 plaintiffs’ see the settlement as an important victory that shows law enforcement across the country that people must be permitted to exercise their first amendment rights.
"This case is important not only to the class members and their attorneys, but also for civil liberties," the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism said in a statement.
"This substantial settlement will send an unequivocal message to the City of Chicago and its police department that they must respect the right to free speech and assembly," the statement added.
But the road to “victory” wasn’t always a smooth one.
According to CBSNews.com, initially the case was dismissed by a different court, but the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago reinstated the case last year.
In the past, Federal appellate Justice Richard Posner ruled that law enforcement did not have the right to take peaceful protesters into custody "merely because they do not have a permit," the People's Law Office said in a statement.
The settlement comes in the wake of the approaching NATO and G8 summits scheduled for May.
Back in January, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was successful in getting the approval for two measures that will make it harder for protesters to exercise their freedom of speech.
The two new actions would constrict parade rules, raise fines for violating the restrictions and also give him free power to splurge funds on the two international summits coming to Chicago in May.
According to a spokesman for the city of Chicago’s law department, Roderick Drew, the city has already significantly enhanced its crowd-control techniques from the March 20 incident back in 2003.
“The lessons learned and the guidance we received from the court has all allowed the city to better prepare for future demonstrations," added Drew to CBS.
But the knowledge gained by Chicago PD didn’t come with a discreditable price.
"It certainly has been a shameful episode for the city of Chicago," said plaintiffs' attorney Joey Mogul to CBS.
The lawsuit settlement would compensate those arrested and charged up to $15,000 and anyone who was arrested but not charged with a crime could get the maximum of $8,750. As for the protesters who were detained on the street for no longer than an hour and a half before being set free, could receive up to $500 Mogul added.
It is important to note this isn’t the first time Chicago has had to shell out money for this case.
According to the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, the city has already paid in excess of $300,000 to people who sued for police brutality.
The case still needs to pass one more approval and once approved, Chicago’s city council has to agree to the settlement.
Many City leaders are concerned of the upcoming G8 summit and are worried about the image of their city.
All eyes will be on the Windy City to see how law enforcement handles the tens of thousands of protesters ready to hit the streets in May.