April 15, 2007

Ruling Expected in Chicago Activist's Freedom of Speech Appeal

Freedom-of-speech advocates and political activists are expecting a verdict this week in the case of a Chicago political activist who was arrested at a political rally for openly questioning police orders.

Betty Resnikoff, a Chicago political activist, took part in a counterprotest in July 2006 near a rally in Chicago's Federal Plaza. The rally supported the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and concurrent bombing of Lebanon. Resnikoff was one of a group of protesters handing out leaflets opposing the bombing and the rally.

Resnikoff was critically discussing the invasion "when Homeland Security ordered her to stop talking and to move away from where she was on a public sidewalk across the street from the pro-Israeli rally", according to an email report about Resnikoff.

"When Betty began questioning them about the legality of their order", the report continues, "they deemed this non-compliance, and then arrested her. She was charged with being disorderly (for loud discussions with passersby) and with non-compliance with Homeland Security police."

Resnikoff was tried in October 2006 in Magistrate's court and found not guilty on charges of disorderly conduct, but she was found guilty of not complying with police orders.

An appeal to the noncompliance charges now stands in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois, with a verdict due on Tuesday, April 17.

The legal briefs for the appeal claim that the Magistrate judge's ruling was contradictory by nature. The briefs argue that Resnikoff's fundamental free speech rights were interfered with, and cite a number of Supreme Court free- speech cases, including a 1949 Supreme Court case involving Chicago police.

Those interested in Resnikoff's case are encouraged to attend the announcement of the verdict on Tuesday, April 17, at 9 AM, in the courtroom of Judge Coar, room 1419 of the Dirksen Federal Building, on the east side of Dearborn between Adams and Jackson, in Downtown Chicago. Attendees must bring identification and proceed through building security.