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ACLU raises red flags about security zones during DNC

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(The Center Square) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois is concerned an ordinance approved by the Chicago City Council paves the way for security zones around the Democratic National Convention this summer.

With the DNC slated to be held at the United Center beginning Aug. 19, residents and businesses in the area face contending with “buffer zones” set to be installed across the neighborhood. The same holds true for parts of the South Loop, where various event activities and other functions are scheduled to be held at nearby McCormick Place.

“The plan the City Council approved is so vague,” ACLU of Illinois communications Director Ed Yohnka told The Center Square. “I think the problem that we have is that they can’t say if it’s just a couple of blocks and that raises the question will someone who’s demonstrating on tax policy, reproductive rights, LGBT or foreign policy be able to be in a place where they are close enough to their intended target that the delegates will be able to hear and see that demonstration.”

Yohnka said he also worries about how a would-be protester will be able to find out where the buffer zone is given the ordinance only requires city officials to notify the public through city officials’ “best efforts.”

“It’s not clear how a person who’s going to do that demonstrating would find out where the zone is according to the ordinance,” he added. “The people will be notified of where the zone is through the best efforts of the Chicago police to publicize it on their website. If you’re coming to town from Cleveland or Philadelphia or Alabama to protest, you’re not going to look at the CPD website as the place to look for information.”

Yohnka said ACLU officials have also taken note of the way the city has thus far denied every permit applied for by those looking to stage marches during the convention.

“I think there’s reason to wonder who is making the plan, where is that plan being made and when will it be made public,” he added. “There ought to be a larger discussion on the part of the city as to where and what places are going to be off limits.”

Going forward, Yohnka said the organization plans to remain in talks with city officials up until the start of the convention in hopes of addressing all their concerns.

The DNC is scheduled Aug. 19-22 in Chicago.