Legal observers with the Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers Guild consulted with demonstrators at an Occupy Chicago event. The guild runs a nationwide legal observing program to ensure protesters’ rights are not violated. A group of volunteers, many of whom work as lawyers, will observe the upcoming NATO summit and be legal observers. Photo courtesy of Alina Tsvor.
As the NATO summit approaches, two legal groups continue their preparations for the potential legal problems that could occur during massive protests.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU) and the Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers Guild recently started offering programs to teach demonstrators about their rights and to train lawyers and law students to become legal observers.
Although their efforts remain separate for the most part, both groups began to plan for the summit last year and communicate with the city, Secret Service and other NATO organizers ever since. The summit occurs May 20 and May 21 at McCormick Place.
Sarah J. Gelsomino, an attorney at the People’s Law Office who belongs to the guild, and Harvey M. Grossman, legal director at the ACLU, said these ongoing conversations focus on free speech and the logistics of the gathering that the Chicago NATO Host Committee expects will bring at least 10,000 people to the city.
While they worked ahead of time to ensure the designation of free speech areas and protest routes, both Gelsomino and Grossman said their groups created “know your rights” programs so demonstrators know how to safely and legally protest in Chicago.
Not only does ACLU’s program detail general constitutional rights, it includes information on city ordinances, state court decisions and local rules, a combination especially useful for out-of-state folks, Grossman said.