Judge denies push to dismiss charges in Gay Games protest
Federal Judge Milton Shadur, US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, has denied a motion from the city of Chicago to dismiss charges that it violated the First Amendment rights of anti-gay protestors during the Chicago 2006 Gay Games earlier this year.
The organisation filed the civil law suit against the city of Chicago on the allegation that their members’ free speech rights were violated.
A group of protesters from the Christian organisation Repent America (RA) staged several protests in response to the Gay Games, including one in Gateway Park across from Navy Pier on July 16th. Members of the organisation handed out anti-gay literature condemning homosexuality.
In a statement to the press, the organisation said “RA’s method is to engage people in conversations and pass out literature in public venues which is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.”
Police officers approached the group and directed them to move from Navy Pier, where Gay Games events were taking place, to Gateway Park across the street.
RA alleges in their suit that one of the officers grabbed a protestor’s hand, holding a video camera, and forced it down.
After moving to the park, the group then claims that they were told by police they would need to leave the park as well. When one member attempted to call 911, according to the suit, the officers began handcuffing the protestors, forcing one into a headlock.
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Three RA members were handcuffed at the protest and two were arrested for criminal trespassing. The group claims that officers yelled profanities at the protestors and held the arrested members for four hours at a Chicago police station before letting them go without charges. RA claims the video tape of the event was confiscated and the police have refused to return it.
In response to the arrests, an attorney for the city of Chicago stated to the group on July 17th that they were required to stay within established “free speech zones” while protesting the Games.
In a second incident, an RA member was arrested for disorderly conduct in front of Wrigley film, location of the Gay Games closing ceremonies. The protestor was holding a sign saying “Marriage is Between One Man and One Woman” and repeatedly refused to move to a designated free speech zone across the street. RA claims a video tape of a portion of this incident was altered by police to delete the relevant footage. Charges against the man were later dropped.
Repent America was founded in Pennsylvania and condemns, among other things, abortion, homosexuality and the teaching of evolution. The radical group has had several run-ins with the police, especially in Chicago. The Gay Games incidents are just a few in a series of arrests that have resulted from the group’s protests against GLBT events.
Neither the Federation of Gay Games nor the organisers of the Chicago 2006 Gay Games have released a press statement regarding the lawsuit. The City of Chicago has also not commented on the suit.
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