Anti-war activist Andy Thayer is ending his seven-year battle with the Chicago Police Department after his appeal of a 2005 arrest was denied last Tuesday.
Thayer, head of the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism and co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, was arrested during an anti-war press conference held just off the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago.
Thayer had submitted a permit to hold a protest at Oak Street and Michigan Avenue, but city officials rejected it, suggesting the protest be held instead at Washington Square Park. Thayer opposed, because he said it was less visible.
He and other demonstrators wanted the protest to be held in an open area, and Washington Square was too secluded, said Thayer.
“The First Amendment is meaningless without an audience,” he said.
Thayer decided to hold a press conference instead, he said, because a permit was not needed.
The press conference ended when police started making arrests just minutes after it began.
“We were not engaged in any violent or criminal activities,” Thayer said.
Thayer was convicted in local criminal court of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and permit violation. He was fined $1,000.
He then filed a civil lawsuit, apart from his criminal case, against the city of Chicago and members of the police department. Thayer claimed police stripped him of his First Amendment rights.
Thayer said he was singled out because of the anti-war message he attempted to convey at the press conference.
“We feel there was a case of the Chicago Police Department using a political agenda,” Thayer said.
Thayer, who was represented by pro bono attorneys, lost his appeal in civil court, because he was unable to prove that CPD acted maliciously.
“In any event, the record is void of evidence showing that the officers acted with retaliatory animus in arresting him,” according to the ruling.
The Chicago Department of Law released a statement last Wednesday saying it was “pleased” with the district court’s judgment.
After the courts ruled in favor of the defendants, Thayer said last Tuesday he would not continue his appeal.
“This is pretty much the end of the road,” Thayer said.
Now that the case is over, he said, he feels a bit of relief and that he won partial victory. The partial victory is sending a message to the city of Chicago that he will continue to fight and not back down, he said.
This is not Thayer’s first lawsuit. He has been involved in a handful of lawsuits and has been arrested a few dozen times.
“Even if we fight and lose we are still going to fight. You better think twice about impinging on people’s rights,” he said.