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Appellate court: Park curfew constitutional, protesters arrests stand

A state appellate court reinstated arrests against 92 people who were arrested in Grant Park as part of the Occupy Chicago protests in 2011, ruling that the city’s curfew in some public parks is constitutional.

Tuesday’s ruling reversed a decision by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Donnelly to vacate arrests of 92 protesters between Oct. 15 and Oct. 22, 2011.

In his ruling, Donnelly found the city ordinance requiring parks to be closed by 11 p.m. “was facially unconstitutional and unconstitutional as applied to defendants as it violated principals of equal protection,” the appellate court ruling said.

Before Donnelly tossed out their arrests, protesters pointed to the 2008 Election Night rally for then-President elect Barack Obama, arguing that they should be viewed under the same lens as the thousands who were in the park and weren’t arrested that night.

“[T]his victory rally went well beyond 11 p.m. and not only did the City not arrest the president-elect and countless other politicians, the City provided additional security for the event and did not enforce the ordinance against several thousand spectators,” the appellate ruling stated.

“Even if we could make a valid comparison between the two groups, we could not possibly find them similarly situated based on their violation of the ordinance alone,” the appellate court said. “The name of the group ‘Occupy Chicago’ establishes that the participants intend to remain in or occupy a space.”