Anti-war activists have berated Mayor Rahm Emanuel in past weeks for his proposed Pride/protest ordinance rewrites, which they say will limit free speech. Among the most vocal has been Gay Liberation Network (GLN) co-founder Andy Thayer, who worries that the provisions will have a significant impact on LGBT protests.
"Emanuel is basically punishing the wrong people with these ordinances," Thayer said.
The proposed changes, aimed at the G8/North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summits in May, will remain on the books after the summit protesters roll out of town.
That may stifle future LGBT protests and actions, said Thayer.
Thayer worries that new language in the ordinance will make it nearly impossible to organize spontaneous downtown protests, a regular occurrence in past years as LGBT rights nationally are won and lost.
Groups like GLN, Join the Impact-Chicago, The Civil Rights Agenda, LGBT Change and others have held last-minute demonstrations in downtown over the past four years in coordination with protests throughout the country, such as demonstrations around Proposition 8 developments.
Thayer believes that new regulations will make such spontaneous protests illegal. Under the new ordinance, protesters need to inform the city of their plans at least week in advance, receive permits and provide information on what signs and sound equipment will be used.
Thayer argues that the changes place an unfair burden on organizers, who cannot possibly anticipate the size of crowds or what signs individuals will bring.
Emanuel announced on Jan. 12, that he had softened some of the rules in the initial proposals. But Thayer argues that the changes do not satisfy concerns for protesters, who could be looking at $1,000 fines for breaking the new rules.
Noa Shayden, an emerging LGBT activist, is also keeping an eye on the proposed changes. Shayden is the principal organizer of Chicago's 2012 Worldwide LGBT Civil Rights March, a global demonstration planned for April 21. Shayden expects the Chicago march to be one of the largest in the country. Emanuel's protest ordinance proposals, which call for one marshal for every 100 protesters, will likely impact that march.
Shayden called the proposals "unfair," but said they would not hinder organizing efforts.
"I'm still going to be out there," said Shayden, adding that it was too early in the planning process to determine how the new ordinance could impact the march.
Changes to the protest and parade rules could also impact the Pride Parade.
Richard Pfeiffer, Pride Parade coordinator, declined to comment in the possible impacts. He said that he had not been able to independently obtain a copy of the proposed ordinance and could not say how the proposal would impact the parade until he had.
The impact on the Pride Parade, however, might be small. Due to growing crowds and security concerns, Pfeiffer tripled the number of parade marshals between 2009 and 2011. Given the number of parade entries, the parade committee was required to supply just more than 30 marshals. Pfeiffer's team produced 120 marshals last year.