Chicago Mayor Defends Ban on Protesters on Her Block, Asserts Right to Safety

August 21, 2020 Updated: August 21, 2020

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday defended the Chicago Police Department banning protesters from demonstrating on the block where she lives, saying that she has been receiving threats on a daily basis.

“I think that residents of this city, understanding the nature of the threats that we are receiving on a daily basis, on a daily basis, understand I have a right to make sure that my home is secure,” the Democratic mayor said, reported the Chicago Tribune, regarding threats against her, her partner, and her home.

Her remarks were made at a news conference unrelated to the matter. She was asked about a recent report from the outlet about how police were instructed to arrest any protester near her home in the Logan Square neighborhood.

According to the report, the order came from a July email from Commander Melvin Roman—who was at the time overseeing the Shakespeare District where Lightfoot lives—to officers under his command. The order did not make a distinction between peaceful protesters that Lightfoot says she supports and those who intend to riot. Roman, who has since been reassigned to a different division, said in the email that after demonstrators are given one warning, the area “should be locked down.”

Since the order, the outlet noted that protesters have been “repeatedly blocked” by police from accessing Lightfoot’s block.

Lightfoot told reporters on Thursday that “this is a different time like no other,” so comparing her situation to that of former mayors is unfair. The Chicago Tribune noted that activists and police sources “could not cite instances” where her predecessor, former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, had his home protected by police from protesters.

“Given the threats I have personally received, given the threats to my home and my family, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they’re protected,” Lightfoot said. “I make no apologies whatsoever for that.”

She declined to elaborate on the specific nature of the threats, WTTW reported.

According to the station, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown told reporters that there “have been very violent people” that are “embedded” in each of the protests even though they have mostly been peaceful.

“They’re embedded. They put up umbrellas. And they come for a fight. So we have to prepare for what we’ve seen,” he said.

‘Wiggle Room’

Both Lightfoot and Brown noted that laws exist that ban protests in residential areas. The city doesn’t always enforce the laws, Brown said, adding that it tries to give “wiggle room” for protesters and that it is committed to protecting their First Amendment rights.

Illinois has a 1967 “public demonstrations law” that bans picketing in residential areas. The Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University noted that a 1998 Supreme Court case ruled that municipalities cannot ban general marching through a neighborhood. However, they can do so for instances of picketing targeted at a specific residence.

Chicago recently faced widespread looting in early August that resulted in more than 100 arrests. Lightfoot told reporters at a press conference on Aug. 15 that residents and businesses deserve to feel safe.

“Whether it’s in our downtown commercial district or in one of our other 77 neighborhoods, there can never be any place in Chicago where businesses are afraid to open, where residents and visitors are afraid to travel and shop,” Lightfoot said, according to ABC7. She added that the city would send an extra 1,000 officers downtown that weekend to prevent more violence.

The city continues to suffer from violence, with 64 shot—5 fatally—just over the most recent weekend. More than 480 homicides have been recorded so far in Chicago this year.

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