home news topics photos press opinion donate contact


Would Sam Adams seek permission from the mayor?

Political odd couple agrees on the absurdity of protest permits

John Kass - Chicago Tribune Columnist - LINK - Video Link

May 18, 2012

GLN permalink 5-18-2012

If there's one thing that's truly offensive about the demonstrations against the NATO summit in Chicago, it's this:


The protesters are Americans. And what's offensive, at least to me, is that they have to obtain permits to speak their minds in America while standing on the public square.

"It's absurd," said Andy Thayer, NATO protest organizer. "I don't even think absurd is the right word."

Thayer comes from Holland, a small town in New York, "a one-stoplight town," he said. He attended Northwestern University, and he's now an office manager in a Chicago law firm that handles Chicago police brutality cases. As the face and voice of the Occupy crowd in Chicago, he's the one you'll see interviewed most often.

We sat together Thursday along the Chicago River, near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Wabash Avenue and Wacker Drive. If you saw us there, you might have thought we were some kind of political odd couple.

While we don't agree on politics, we do agree on the right of the American people to have their say.

As Chicago prepares for this weekend's NATO summit, and the protests that are part of the package, we talked of great men who spoke their minds long ago. Americans name lagers after them, and honor them on July 4, grilling meat and drinking beer in their names, lighting fireworks and waving flags.

And the nation tries to remember what it was they did exactly.

Here's what they didn't do. They didn't ask the government for license to stand in so-called protest zones.

I brought up Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty and the Boston Tea Party. No one asked for a permit.

Did Sam Adams ask King George for a writ of protest?

"They didn't have protest permits then," Thayer said. "And Sam Adams wouldn't have asked for one. There were no licenses to give. There were no permit ordinances to seek. It wouldn't have occurred to them."

And still, Thayer and his colleagues played the permit game with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"We have jumped through the hoops from the city on permits," Thayer said. "But we felt we had to send a message of assurance to our people, to those who'd never participated before, that we were doing everything we could to have a quote-unquote legal march."

Sam Adams didn't care. The thing about Adams and the other Sons of Liberty is they weren't big on asking permission to speak their minds. Yet somehow, Americans began accepting the virtue of silence. The Occupy movement doesn't accept it, and the tea party doesn't, but many Americans do.

The entire United States of America should be a designated protest zone. Because the last time I checked, even with the security cameras on light poles and our cellphones-turned-tracking-devices and those unmanned aircraft overhead watching us, we're Americans.

"I get grief from some on the political left every time I say this, but what (President Barack) Obama's done bothers me," he said. "The drone strikes, the wars, he's gone from the peace president to the war president, and if there's one thing I'd want coming out of these protests is that the Democrats and their Republican opponents should pay for the violence done to the people of the world."

Please don't misunderstand me. I support the right of Americans to hold protests, even loud and raucous ones, but I do not condone any violence whatsoever. Not violence against protesters by cops. And definitely not any violence against cops by protesters. What city officials and some in the protest movement agree on is that there are a few people visiting Chicago this weekend who may think hurting others is a way to measure their political passion. If so, then those who wanted NATO here, namely Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Obama, will have to take some of the heat.

And I asked Thayer: Will he take any moral responsibility if anyone gets hurt over the weekend?

"The permit for Sunday's protest is in my name," he said. "It keeps me awake all night. The question of violence, I think, has been overplayed, but I don't want any of that. We don't want that. Our protests are about the war, about ending violence. And so yes, I feel a very deep moral obligation against all violence."

During the time of President George W. Bush, there were many war protests, and his image was even repeatedly burned in effigy. But when Obama was elected, much of the war protesting stopped. The wars continued. The spending continued. But the liberal voices hushed themselves, rather than criticize their guy.

Thayer wasn't one of them.

"Even today I can stand at a news conference and criticize Obama on his war policy, and all that gets cut and ends up on the cutting-room floor," Thayer said. "That somehow is edited out. What the media wants to talk about is the minutiae of the protest permit process, not the underlying reasons we're here. It gets frustrating. But you have to deal with it."


Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune

Gay Liberation Network


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.