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Coalition to March on the RNC to continue permit struggle despite new city ordinance

By staff

Members of the Coalition to March on the RNC are fighting to get permits for the protest at the convention. | Fight Back! News/staff

Milwaukee, WI – On Monday, March 18, organizers with the Coalition to March on the RNC gathered at Milwaukee City Hall to push back on a repressive ordinance being heard at rushed meeting of the Public Works Committee. The ordinance was meant to derail the coalition's efforts and would have given the Milwaukee Police Department special powers to decide who gets to speak and power over the parade route. Furthermore, it would have restricted the protest to a quarter mile away from where the RNC will be held – far from being within sight and sound of the RNC, and far from being what the Coalition to March on the RNC has been demanding for the last year.

The Public Works Committee began its rushed meeting by going through the proposed ordinance that the committee members had not previously read. This added insult to the already sham process that disenfranchises the majority of working people with its 9 a.m. meeting on a Monday. After little deliberation, the committee was set to approve the ordinance before allowing for public comment due to the unexpected audience.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin submitted written testimony before the Public Works Committee in defense of the Coalition to March on the RNC. The ACLU said the proposed ordinance violated the First Amendment by giving the police chief full discretion over permits.

In defense of the repressive ordinance, Kathryn Block, assistant city attorney, said, “We feel we could defend a decision to deny a permit based on showing that a speaker was likely to engage in unprotected speech or conduct...fighting words, etc.”

Nicholas DeSiato, chief of staff for the mayor, and former chief of staff for the Milwaukee Police Department, said, “A permit will be revoked at the determination of the police chief if an applicant, or persons represented by the applicant have previously engaged in violence or destruction in connection with a previous parade or other public assembly in violation of any [local], state or federal laws.” This same former chief of police oversaw the mass detention of protesters during the 2020 uprisings, where many are still dealing with the effects of false charges.

In response, Omar Flores, co-chair of the Coalition to March on the RNC, spoke in the unplanned public comment section and pointed out the many glaring discrepancies in the ordinance. Primarily, the city officials attempting to co-opt the mass movement to march on the RNC have no connection to the people they are trying to police, Flores said.

“People in the community are familiar with us through our consistent work, including marches and protests. There shouldn’t be this many hurdles to get a permit to march. Especially, we don’t believe that the police department should be in control of who gets to speak and where the routes are.”

Flores continued, “There's Three Percenters on the police force. We don’t trust their designation of what they consider a hate group or people who would be inciting violence.”

The position is clear – reactionaries should not be involved in deciding who gets to protest against the RNC. We must not allow reactionaries co-opt our movement. In light of the public comment by the coalition representatives, the Public Works Committee made some concessions and amended the ordinance to expand the event time to eight hours. They also took away total control from the police chief and made the commissioner of the Department of Public Works the one in charge of revoking permits.

While the amendments to remove the decision-making power from the police chief and extend the demonstration hours showed the power of public comment, the resulting ordinance that was unanimously passed remains far too restrictive. The Coalition to March on the RNC will not entertain the city’s attempts to control dissent to appease the racist Republican Party.

“We reject the city’s protest pens and attempt to sideline us out of sight and sound of the location of the RNC,” said Flores. “Whether we get permits from this city government or not, we will be marching come July 15!”

#MilwaukeeWI #WI #PeoplesStruggles #RNC2024 #Feature