Mayor Rahm Emanuel made an admission on Tuesday: He "made a mistake" when he claimed that extraordinary security measures he proposed to handle protesters who descend on Chicago for the NATO and G-8 summits would be temporary and repealed after the events are over.
The mayor's about-face apparently means the only thing temporary about the changes will be the power to purchase "goods, work or services" needed to host the May 15-22 event at McCormick Place without City Council approval.
But the other changes will be permanent. They include: dramatically higher fines for resisting arrest; more surveillance cameras; parks and beaches closed until 6 a.m.; sweeping parade restrictions and higher fees for those events and empowering Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to "deputize law enforcement personnel" and forge cooperative agreements with a host of state, federal and local law enforcement agencies.
That's not what the mayor said last month when he introduced the changes at a City Council meeting. At that time, he emphatically stated that the changes he sought were "temporary," "one-time only" and "just for this conference."
"I made a mistake. Real simple, OK? I thought when I answered the question, I was answering the question about contracting, OK? So, if I made a mistake, I bear the responsibililty," the mayor said.
As he did last month, Emanuel flatly denied that the sky-high fines and 6 a.m. park and beach opening signaled an attempt to muzzle what's expected to be an international onslaught of protesters.
In Seattle, about 35,000 people protested a World Trade Organization meeting in 1999 and caused more than $2 million in damage to businesses. There were violent clashes between protesters and police in Pittsburgh during a G-20 summit in 2009.
"First Amendment rights will be protected. Public safety will be also protected, and I don't see the two in conflict at all," the mayor said.
That's not what the protesters were saying before applying for a permit to stage a massive May 19 march from Daley Center plaza to McCormick Place.
They demanded that Emanuel roll back the changes or risk waking up the ghosts of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
"I'm a veteran of 1968. I was one of the organizers when the whole world was watching, and I see some unfortunate parallels here," said political consultant Don Rose.
"The more pugnacious the city behaves, the more pugnacious they can expect as a response. This can be done peacefully. But mass repression appears to be on the threshold, and the city should be well beyond that by now."
Andy Thayer, a spokesman for the Coalition Against the NATO G-8 War and Poverty Agenda, branded Emanuel "Mayor One Percent" and argued that the mayor "lied" when he said the changes would be temporary not permanent.
Thayer offered as Exhibit "A" a proposed parade ordinance tailor-made to stifle all manner of public expression.
"Every single protest in the downtown area would be considered a 'major parade' with a whole series of ridiculous stipulations," he said. "Every single piece of sound equipment would need to be registered with the city a week in advance. You can't predict who's gonna show up with a bullhorn. They are also insisting on a full lineup of [participants] a week in advance.
"This does not just affect G-8 and NATO protesters. Everyone who's got a beef with the city or a private employer in this town is gonna be affected by this ordinance. They need to take this very seriously and say, 'We do not want to go back to these ridiculous restrictions and thuggish behavior in response to protests.' "
Thayer said he expects the city to deny the permit, setting the stage for a court fight.