Letter: Support Occupy Chicago movement

The city of Chicago should

By Letter to the Editor

To the people of Chicago, Chicago aldermen, Superintendent McCarthy, Mayor Emanuel, and Governor Quinn:

We, as faculty members, students, and workers at the University of Chicago, are writing to express our support for the Occupy Chicago movement to hold peaceful and democratic assemblies in our public parks.

We endorse this movement’s call to recognize and redress fundamental injustices in this country, including: the high and rising inequality of income and wealth; the lack of accountability on the part of the financial institutions that brought about the crisis of 2008; the undue political power of wealthy corporations and individuals; and the failure to tax corporations and the wealthy at fair rates in order to protect the jobs and living standards of millions of Americans. We recognize that as members of a privileged academic institution, we also share a role in confronting these injustices, whose elimination is a prerequisite not only for a just society but also for a well-functioning democracy.

On Saturday, October 15, our elected leaders used the Grant Park curfew as a pretext for suppressing the free speech rights of ordinary American citizens. Over 175 people were arrested, including numerous members of our university’s community. As members of the academy, we take free and open discourse, along with critical inquiry, to be fundamental to any healthy democratic society. Yet the actions taken by the city of Chicago achieved exactly the opposite. As such, we write to condemn the actions taken by the city of Chicago.

We urge our elected officials to respect the right of free speech of participants in the Occupy Chicago movement and ask that these officials immediately work with them to hold their events at places and times of their choosing. We believe, in this case, that the preservation of first amendment rights takes precedence over local statutes and bureaucratic practices.

We also want to point out that other major cities, including Minneapolis and Dallas, have worked with local “Occupy” movements to find solutions that accommodate both the rights of the protestors and the responsibility of local government to ensure orderly conduct in public spaces. If the leaders of the city of Chicago wish to retain its good repute as America’s “Second City,” we believe it should follow the model set by such cities.

Involved students, faculty members and workers of the University of Chicago.