Chicago, IL – Six protesters were arrested in front of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home in Logan Park last Saturday but none of them were even from Illinois.
Police were called to Lightfoot’s northwest neighborhood at 10:22 p.m. on Aug. 22 to disperse protesters in the 3400-block of West Wrightwood Avenue, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Chicago police ultimately arrested four women and two men who refused to leave the area.
One of the women told the Chicago Sun-Times that some of the protesters were with the “Jesus Matters Movement” and they were protesting because “the country is going to s—t.”
She also said they were picketing the mayor house because “Lightfoot is a liberal and it’s the liberals’ faults.”
The six people were transported to the Town Hall District station house for booking and then released, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
They were all charged with misdemeanor residential picketing.
Police said one of the women was also charged with violating a city ordinance for loud music or amplified sound, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Three of the protesters were from New York, one was from Arkansas, one was from Pennsylvania, and another was from Seattle, WGN reported.
They are all due to appear in court on Oct. 5
Just two days earlier, Lightfoot had defended the extreme security measures used to keep protesters away from her Logan Park home dubbed “Fort Lori” by neighbors.
The mayor told reporters she refused to apologize for protecting her block.
“This is a different time like no other. I’m not gonna make any excuses for the fact that, given the threats I have personally received, given the threats to my home and my family, I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure they are protected. I make no apologies whatsoever for that,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters on Thursday, according to the Chicago Patch.
“We are living in a very different time, and I have seen the threats that come in,” Lightfoot explained.
“I have an obligation to keep my home, my wife, my 12-year-old and my neighbors safe. … I think that residents of this city, understanding the nature of the threats we are receiving on a daily basis, on a daily basis, understand I have a right to make sure my home is secure. We have a right to our home to live in peace,” she said.
The controversy surrounding security plans for the mayor’s home arose after a Chicago police directive from July was leaked to the Chicago Tribune that said officers were to lockdown Lightfoot’s residential block and keep it clear of protesters.
Chicago Police Commander Melvin Roman, who oversaw the Shakespeare District of the city where Lightfoot lived until the end of July, sent an email to the officers under his command that detailed exactly how to deal with the protesters.
“Please be advised that we are no longer allowing [any] protesters across the street from mayors [sic] residence … please make sure every officer in the house knows that if anyone shows up to protest [they] are to be immediately told that it is against the city code and state law to protest on a residential neighborhood,” Commander Roman wrote. “They need to be told to leave immediately.”
The commander said that officers should secure the block, including St. Louis Avenue and Kimball nearby “so that no other protesters come and join” whatever is already happening, the Chicago Tribune reported.
He said protesters were allowed to demonstrate in front of a nearby church.
“Once locked down and more cars on scene the second … order should be given,” Commander Roman ordered the officers. “The idea is to make sure the footprint is closed so we don’t have larger numbers to deal with. [Tactical teams] will then come … help with any arrests that need to be done once third and final warning is given.”
The commander also directed his lieutenants to tell officers “they should immediately call for cars and a supervisor while [giving] the protesters the first warning,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
Chicago police said that Lightfoot’s request was in line with state and local laws that prohibited “residential picketing” in front of a house in a residential area of the city unless that home is also used as a business, the Chicago Patch reported.
Violators can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,500.
“CPD remains committed to facilitating First Amendment rights, while also protecting public safety. CPD continues to enforce state law and the City’s municipal code regarding public assembly,” Chicago Police Spokeswoman Margaret Huynh told the Chicago Tribune in a statement. “The block is open at this time.”
Logan Square resident Lauren Dean pointed out the hypocrisy of the move by the Chicago mayor.
“While Lori is on national stages talking about how we need to reform police by creating fewer day-to-day interactions between police and citizens, her own city is not allowed to move through the neighborhood or feel the same kind of safety she is claiming to advocate for nationally,” Dean told the Chicago Tribune in an email.
“As a neighbor, I find protests and actions near her home significantly less disruptive than her response to the protestors, which only aim to keep her from having to listen to the voices of her constituents,” she added.
Ron Kaminecki, 69, a patent attorney who also owns a bike shop, lives a few houses down from the mayor and said at times the police have checked neighbors’ identification before letting them go home.
“I came up with the name ‘Fort Lori’ because it’s so hard to get in and out,” Kaminecki said.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois said that while police were correct about the laws regarding protests in front of an individual home, it becomes a gray area when officers are blocking off entire blocks of the city, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“The Supreme Court has found that the government can prohibit protests at a single home in a residential area, but that does not necessarily extend to the entire block,” ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka said in a statement. “The right to free speech and peaceable assembly includes the right to choose one’s audience, and government actions that limit that right for the sake of residential privacy must be narrowly tailored to protect that interest.”
First Amendment attorney Matt Topic, however, questioned the city’s application of the law, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“The city interpretation of the statute is on questionable constitutional grounds, and an administration that believes in accountability to the people wouldn’t try to ban picketing near the home of the mayor even if an argument could be made for its constitutionality,” Topic explained.
Lightfoot is known to be extremely security conscious, the Chicago Tribune reported.
When activists made it up to her offices to protest and stage a sit-in in February, the mayor quickly reassigned the long-standing head of the City Hall police detail.