60 heads of state will attend the NATO Summit in Chicago on May 20-21 and at least 2,500 journalists from across the world are expected to be in the Windy City this weekend to report on the events. That does not count citizen journalists who may be among the NATO protesters. Although the Justice Department just defended citizens' constitutionally protected rights to record the cops, First Amendment expression is currently under fire in Chicago.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said "some situations" like large-scale NATO Summit protests might be disruptive. In discussing ways to keep the peace, unlike the violent clash between cops and citizens during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the major had "pushed, for example, to dramatically increase fines for resisting arrest, explaining that the fines were long overdue to be raised." The Washington Post reported, "He backed down after some aldermen worried that the fines might suggest Chicago was intent on curbing First Amendment expression." Yet the Post goes on to say that "many people are bracing for vandalism and violence."
The all-seeing, never-blinking eyes of surveillance cameras throughout Chicago are assisting over 40 agencies in monitoring "everything" about the NATO Summit with "real-time feeds." The Associated Press toured the security command center and spoke with the Secret Service, the FBI and the Chicago Police about the security preparations.
An FBI agent told AP, "There have been no credible threats that we've developed regarding the NATO summit or City of Chicago this weekend." However Privacy SOS reported, "That's odd, because the FBI was reportedly involved in surveiling and arresting the three anti-NATO protesters who have been charged with possession of bombs, conspiracy and material support for terrorism." Indeed the Chicago Police, FBI and Secret Service were busy last week in what they must have considered "credible" enough to press terrorism charges as was reported in the article about Solidarity Sunday.
Last week, Chicago police officers promised ¨billy clubs to the f**king skull¨ to a group of activists they'd pulled over without cause in the South Side neighborhood of Bridgeport. The activists recorded the encounter with a cell phone and the video spread virally across the internet. Now, three of those Occupiers are locked up on charges of terrorism that witnesses, lawyers, and family say are ridiculous. Lawyers for the accused say CPD planted evidence.
"Millions have been spent by Chicago authorities on new police gear while bowing to their collective paranoia," FreakOutNation reported while talking about NATO being a "global war machine on steroids." Furthermore, the article states, "As the protesters stand up to the largest, fiercest, global machine, that drone-loving entity feels oppressed. America should wake up to the government's use of propaganda. An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill."
Meanwhile, the Chicago Police Department seems to be acting exactly in the same unconstitutional manner that got Baltimore Police smacked by the Justice Department. Don't uses threats or intimidation; don't seize devices; recording the cops is legal and a First Amendment right . . . that may be news to CPD since Chicago cops had their guns drawn and were screaming, cussing, while they pulled over the car of Livestream journalists. Livestreamers Luke Rudkowksi, Tim Pool, Jeoff Shively, Dustin & Jess had been driving home after covering the NATO protest. They were not only stopped by police using the same type of intimidation tactics the DOJ said is unconstitutional, but "one man videotaping had his feed cutoff by the cops" as another police officer screamed, "Get your hands up, your f**king hands!"
Language of CPD may be objectionable to some viewers:
This, like the crackdown on Occupy Wall Street protest journalists, is yet another example of why the U.S. fell 27 places to 47th in the Press Freedom index. Here's a reminder of what Jonathan Smith, chief of the special litigation section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, wrote in the filed 11-page letter [PDF] defending citizens' right to record the cops.
Because recording police officers in the public discharge of their duties is protected by the First Amendment, policies should prohibit interference with recording of police activities except in narrowly circumscribed situations. More particularly, policies should instruct officers that, except under limited circumstances, officers must not search or seize a camera or recording device without a warrant. In addition, policies should prohibit more subtle actions that may nonetheless infringe upon individuals' First Amendment rights. Officers should be advised not to threaten, intimidate, or otherwise discourage an individual from recording police officer enforcement activities or intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices.
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Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. Smith has a diverse background in information technology, programming, web development, IT consulting, and information security. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.
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