Iraq war protesters set to march on Michigan Ave.
Organizers use plans from Lights Festival to gain city permit
By Tonya MaxwellTribune staff reporterPublished March 17, 2006 - LINK
After two years of failing to land coveted marching ground along Michigan Avenue, Iraq war protesters this time around followed the paper trail of a mouse to the Magnificent Mile.
A loosely knit peace group this year won city permission to march along Chicago's most famous strip by following the plan laid by one of the city's most famous events: the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.
Protesters with the March 18 Anti-War Coalition will take to Michigan Avenue on Saturday, the three-year anniversary of the start of the war.
The march will feature floats and a rolling sound stage, ideas garnered from the Lights Festival hosted by the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association, said protest organizer Andy Thayer.
Last year, after city officials rejected the protesters' permit for a Michigan Avenue march on grounds the proposed afternoon march and route would snarl traffic, Thayer did a little spying.
He filed a freedom of information request for the permit application filed by Lights Festival organizers.
Thayer and a friend also videotaped the parade and recorded newscasts for additional footage.
Thayer said he believes the mayor had previously quashed march efforts because the city wanted to avoid a mass gathering of war protesters in downtown Chicago.
"We decided we were going to mimic precisely what the Greater North Michigan Association has done every year. So if [city officials] reject us, it will be a content-based rejection," Thayer said.
"We have a right to protest vital issues of public policy on major streets," he said.
But Jennifer Hoyle, spokeswoman for the city's Law Department, said the politics of protesters were never considered in the application process.
"Every parade application we get is reviewed based on the same criteria," she said. "We have to balance the rights of people who move in and out of the area because they are shopping or live there with the people who want to march."
Assembly for the march is slated to begin at 6 p.m. at Ogden School, near Walton and Dearborn Streets.
At 7 p.m., marchers will move east to Michigan Avenue, south to Wacker Drive, then head west to Clark Street and end at Daley Plaza in the Loop.
The route takes the group past Michigan and Chicago Avenues, where 543 people were arrested in 2003 in a largely spontaneous gathering of an estimated 10,000 marchers who shut down Lake Shore Drive.
The crowd clashed with police as marchers tried to spill onto Michigan Avenue.
Most of those charges were dropped, though a group of protesters filed a federal suit alleging the arrests violated their constitutional rights.
Police expect between 5,000 and 10,000 marchers will turn out for the Saturday rally, said Chicago police spokeswoman Monique Bond.
"We do recognize they have a right to exercise their 1st Amendment rights, but we want to emphasize that the public has a right to move freely and safely. We would encourage them to not change their planned course," she said.
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune