Chicago Mayor Implies Her Rights Matter More Than Yours, Defends Protesting Ban on Her Block

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot believes you have the right to gather and protest. Just know that doesn’t apply to protesting her. 

On Thursday, the mayor, a Democrat, defended a ban on demonstrations on her block, saying that “this is a different time like no other.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, the remarks came at a news conference with Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown. While the topic of the conference was unrelated to the reported ban, she was asked about a report from the Tribune that she’d ordered police to arrest anyone protesting on her block who didn’t leave when asked.

“I think that residents of this city, understanding the nature of the threats that we are receiving on a daily basis, on a daily basis, understand I have a right to make sure that my home is secure,” Lightfoot said.

She didn’t mention what those threats were, however.

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The order was in place since at least July, according to the Tribune. That’s when a Chicago police district commander said, in an email to officers, that Lightfoot’s block “should be locked down” from protesters. The email didn’t make any distinction between peaceful protests and violent disturbances.

The additional police presence apparently has taken resources away from the local district, which has led to what the Tribune described as “grumbling.” The mayor already has around-the-clock police protection.

“Since the order, and even for a time just prior to its writing, Chicago cops have repeatedly blocked protesters’ access to the block with groups of officers and barricades,” the Tribune reported.

“Police have often kept protesters contained at the nearby corner of Kimball and Wrightwood avenues, though one standoff between activists and officers last month saw police go as far as bringing in an armored vehicle in case things got out of hand.”

Should Lori Lightfoot be allowed to ban protesters from her block?

According to the police superintendent, these demonstrations are problematic because of agents provocateur.

“We have seen very peaceful First Amendment protests for the most part, but embedded in each of those protests have been very violent people. And they’re embedded. They put up umbrellas. And they come for a fight,” Brown said.

“So we have to prepare for what we’ve seen.”

Lightfoot has been walking an odd tightrope in the Windy City. On one hand, she’s been a big proponent of the rights of peaceful protesters. On the other hand, she doesn’t like it when things get less peaceful, or might potentially get less peaceful.

Nowhere was the contradiction on display more prominently than in July, when Black Lives Matter demonstrators rallied outside her home one day after hostilities with police.

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In a Twitter thread, the mayor said that she would “unequivocally support and will always fight for the rights of individuals to peacefully protest on any issue.”

However, she noted that these protests had the potential to curdle into violence.

“Unfortunately, last night, a portion of the protesters turned violent,” she said. “A number of individuals came with frozen water bottles, rocks, bottles, cans and other gear to throw at officers. People in the crowd also threw fireworks and other incendiary devices at police, causing injury in several cases. These violent acts are unacceptable and put everyone at risk.”

“People in the crowd also threw fireworks and other incendiary devices at police, causing injury in several cases. These violent acts are unacceptable and put everyone at risk.”

But then: “There have also been several reports of excessive force by the police. These are also unacceptable.”

Protesters, who were demanding the complete defunding of the police, were less than mollified by Lightfoot’s statement, particularly since they claimed police were using tear gas and beating protesters.

“We have a right to freedom of assembly. We have a right to protest. What happened yesterday was a travesty. That’s what happens in dictatorships,” said Aislinn Pulley with Black Lives Matter Chicago, according to CNN.

“We cannot bodycam our way out of this. We cannot do any kind of reforms to get those people to act with humanity. They must be defunded,” said Amika Tendaji, another member of the group.

The confrontation occurred after protesters tried to take down a statue of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park. Lightfoot would eventually order the statue removed.

Demonstrations have flared up again in the city, with mass looting on the city’s Magnificent Mile as well as the Irving North and Gold Coast neighborhoods. According to Fox News, Lightfoot described the Aug. 10 looting as “a planned attack.”

The city shut down its public transport system and raised all the bridges to downtown to stop the attack. That tactic drew comparisons to the movie “Batman Begins” on Twitter; in that film, which used Chicago as a stand-in for Gotham City, bridges were raised by authorities for the same reason.

These aren’t unreasonable steps for a city to take, mind you, particularly when members of Black Lives Matter Chicago held a rally the day afterward calling for the more than 100 people arrested for looting to be released, terming it “reparations.”

“I don’t care if somebody decides to loot a Gucci or a Macy’s or a Nike, because that makes sure that that person eats. That makes sure that that person has clothes,” said Black Lives Matter organizer Ariel Atkins.

“That is reparations. Anything they want to take, take it because these businesses have insurance.”

Right. However, Lightfoot’s equivocation on the matter is frustrating. She supports protesting — just not outside her home. She’s been getting threats — but she won’t say what they are.

“I’m not going to 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 going to do everything I can to make sure they’re protected,” Lightfoot said. “I make no apologies whatsoever for that.”

No, but she should apologize for playing by different rules than her constituents do.

This attitude also was seen in April when Lightfoot got a haircut in spite of Illinois’ stay-at-home restrictions.

“I’m the public face of this city,” she said at the time. “I’m on national media and I’m out in the public eye. I take my personal hygiene very seriously. I felt like I needed to have a haircut.”

Now her right to be protected from the more violent elements of her city’s spate of protests is more important than yours.

There are plenty of mayors who have acquitted themselves poorly during this dark period of disorder, but Lightfoot may take the prize for being the most hypocritical.

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