Federal Judge Approves Settlement Protecting Chicago's "Public Square"

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
November 26, 2002 12:00 am

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Federal Judge Approves Settlement Protecting Chicago’s “Public Square”


CHICAGO – Chicago’s downtown federal plaza, home to demonstrations, prayer vigils and the distribution of leaflets on important matters of public policy for years, is more accessible to a more diverse range of voices under an agreement approved by a U.S. district court judge today.

“We are pleased that the court approved this settlement to insure equal opportunity and open access for all voices to be heard on Chicago’s most prominent public forum,” said Adam Schwartz, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Illinois, which filed the federal lawsuit.

Under the terms of the agreement approved by U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo, the United States General Services Administration, the agency responsible for the management of federal property, may not deny a permit to use the plaza solely because another group already holds a permit to use the plaza at that time. The agreement specifically protects the rights of counter-demonstrators, who may obtain a permit to use the plaza to express views in opposition to a group that already holds a permit to use the plaza.

The settlement concludes proceedings in a lawsuit filed in May 2001, American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois v. United States General Services Administration. The ACLU challenged a policy of issuing only one permit at a time to use the plaza, and then challenged a practice of arbitrarily denying multiple permits to use the plaza. The lawsuit arose in the Autumn of 2000 when the government denied a permit to the ACLU to distribute pamphlets with suggestions for persons who are stopped by the police during a rally hosted by the October 22 Coalition, a group formed to express citizen concern about issues of police brutality and excessive force.

The ACLU amended its lawsuit in December 2001 to challenge the government’s closure of the plaza to all demonstrations and activities in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This lawsuit contributed to the GSA’s decision to lift the closure of the plaza in March 2002.

Attorneys William Gibbons, Adam S. Ryan, Israel Sasha Mayergoyz and A. Colin Wexler from the Chicago office of Latham and Watkins acted as co-counsels in this matter.

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