Circuit Reinstates Chicago’s Disperse Law

     (CN) – Chicago can arrest individuals who fail to disperse when ordered to do so by an officer after the 7th Circuit reversed a federal court’s injunction preventing the enforcement of a disorderly conduct ordinance.

     Don Goldhamer and Robin Shirmer brought a lawsuit after they were arrested while peacefully demonstrating near a military recruiting booth at the Taste of Chicago Festival. The pair was arrested after refusing a policeman’s order to move to a “protest zone.”
     Although the charges against them were dismissed, Goldhamer and Shirmer sued, calling the city’s ordinance “overly broad” and alleging violations of their First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights. They fear prosecution under the ordinance for future protests.
     District Judge John Grady ruled in favor of Goldhamer and Shirmer and issued a permanent injunction, preventing the city from enforcing the failure-to-disperse provision. The city appealed.
     The circuit court declined to rule on the constitutionality of the ordinance. Rather, the court found that Goldhamer and Shirmer lacked standing to request a permanent injunction.
      “[W]e recognize that the failure-to-disperse provision can be misused to… suppress speech and expressive conduct,” he wrote. “The relevant question, though, is whether these plaintiffs have sufficient reason to fear such arrest and prosecution as to justify a federal judicial decision on the facial validity of the law.”
     The 7th Circuit found that they did not. Goldhamer and Shirmer’s actions did not fit the description of disorderly conduct as defined in Chicago’s ordinance.”
     Because the arrests should not have been made under the ordinance, the failure-to-disperse provision did not apply and does not warrant an injunction, the court ruled.
     “Their arrests appear to have been baseless, and for that reason, the district court’s injunction against enforcement of the provision is unlikely to prevent any injury to these plaintiffs,” wrote Hamilton.

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