Chicago protestors and other participants in public assemblies would be prohibited from carrying firearms or other weapons, under a crackdown proposed Wednesday in response to the deadly confrontation involving white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va.
Two of the City Council’s most powerful aldermen — Finance Chairman Edward Burke (14th) and Public Safety Committee Chairman Ariel Reboyras (30th) want Chicago to follow Boston’s lead to prevent the increasing number of Chicago protests and street demonstrations from turning ugly and potentially deadly.
Burke said the city of Boston recently banned possession of guns or “anything that could be used as a weapon” from a “Free Speech” rally organized by a right-wing group last month. The rally drew only a small crowd of supporters — but an estimated 15,000 counter-protesters — to the Boston Commons last month.
Chicago should pre-emptively do the same to prevent a repeat of the Charlottesville tragedy that killed a young woman and injured dozens of others when a man with a history as a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd.
The aldermen noted that Virginia is a “pre-emption state” that allows “open carry” and that weapons were, in fact, carried during the Charlottesville rally called to oppose plans to remove Confederate statues in that state.
“A municipality has the authority to forbid public demonstrations that disrupt a school or hospital, ban the use of loudspeakers in a residential neighborhood at night and refuse to permit a demonstration that will unduly block traffic during rush hour,” Burke was quoted as saying in a press release.
“It seems only fitting that Chicago should also be able to restrict the carrying of weapons during public demonstrations in order to curtail the possibility of violence.”
The preamble to the ordinance introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting makes no bones about the reason for the ban.
It states that Chicago “must prepare and upgrade any necessary public safety measures in anticipation of” protests and rallies “similar to” the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville.
“We have already seen violence and even death at these rallies. But, the potential is far worse if participants continue to carry guns into such confrontational situations,” the preamble states.