City likely to settle lawsuit with 900 protestors

January 19, 2012

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(WBEZ/Robert Wildeboer)
Joey Mogul, an attorney for the protestors.

The city of Chicago is in talks to settle a case with almost 900 people who were arrested and detained in 2003 during a protest at the beginning of the Iraq war. The demonstration was a spontaneous response to the outbreak of the war so there was no set route. Police escorted the large crowd up Lake Shore Drive, but the march ended in confusion.

Attorney Joey Mogul says some protestors got caught between two lines of police with no way to disperse and almost everyone was arrested.

"After the Chicago Police department surrounded everyone at Chicago and Michigan, not only did they include peaceful protestors but included people who were shopping on michigan avenue, included people who were out for a jog that night," Mogul said.

Mogul said police never told marchers that they weren't supposed to be on Chicago Ave., so they had no way to know they were breaking the law.

Another attorney on the lawsuit that has lasted longer than the war, John Stainthorp, said he thinks this case has clarified how the Chicago Police Department is supposed to deal with protestors and that should have an impact on how the city deals with the massive protests expected during the G-8 and NATO summits. Stainthorp points to the "Occupy" protests as proof. He said the police, "gave clear orders to disperse. People knew exactly what was going to happen and then they went up to people individually and said if you don't leave you're going to get arrested and people knew that they were gonna to get arrested and they were doing that as a political protest. That's fair enough."

Stainthorp said the people protesting the Iraq war weren't planning on being arrested as a form of civil disobedience. In fact, he said the march had gone on for a couple hours and people just wanted to go home when police made the mass arrest.

In addition to the lawsuit with more than 800 plaintiffs there's a second, very similar case involving just 16 people. The city is currently settling that small suit as well. City Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew said in that case marchers are getting between $10,000 and $20,000 each.