CHICAGO 1/31 -- On Sunday, Occupy Chicago took to the streets in response to the violent treatment of Occupy Oakland protesters at the hands of the Oakland Police the night before, gathering at at LaSalle and Jackson before setting off on a fast-moving march around the Loop.
“As the march progressed, clearly having no planned route or direction, the police’s aggressive behavior erupted.” said Micah Philbrook of Occupy Chicago. “They began to forcefully push and shove peaceful protesters in an effort to get them off the street.”
Keilah Becker, a member of Occupy Chicago Social Media Team, says she was subjected to extremely aggressive treatment at the hands of an unidentified CPD officer.
“The cop came up behind me, grabbed me by the arm and pushed me onto the sidewalk.” said Becker, who was recording and livestreaming the march at the time. “I told him, ‘You can’t touch me, get your hands off me,’ to which he responded by pushing me onto a trashcan and began yelling extremely sexist and verbally abusive comments at me...I was streaming all of this.”
When another man attempted to come to Becker’s aid, the officer threw him to the ground and proceeded to arrest him.
“I was streaming all of this and then my phone was taken from me.” said Becker. “A woman officer grabbed my phone and turned off the stream. She deleted the footage and told me I could not record officers and that it was a class 4 felony.”
The officer was referring to the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, widely regarded as the most restrictive law of its kind anywhere in the Nation. It makes any type of audio recording of an individual or group without their express permission a Class 4 felony. In Becker’s case it could be much worse. Under this law, audio recording law enforcement personnel is a Class 1 felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Videotaping without audio is not covered under the Act.
The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking to have the law stuck down. Harry Grossman, legal director at ACLU Illinois said the law is hindering the ACLU’s ability to file lawsuits concerning police misconduct. Currently, the ACLU is waiting on a decision from the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals regarding the constitutionality of the law.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-57th) has introduced HB 3944 and hopes to get it out of committee and signed into law before the NATO and G8 summits in May. The bill moves to reverse part of that law to allow officers on-duty in a public place to be recorded by civilians without their consent -- and has an unlikely backer in CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy -- who said in a panel discussion at Loyola University last week that he's behind it.
"As far as the use of videotape, I certainly endorse it, for the protection of the police as well as [civilians]," McCarthy said in an interview with the Chicago Sun Times. "There's no argument when you show videotape and can look at what happened. I actually am a person who endorses video and audio recording."