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NATO activists want alternate route in writing

Published: Saturday, March 31, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO – Activists who want to march through Chicago on the opening day of the NATO summit said Friday they will start their demonstration in Grant Park instead of Daley Plaza if they can get a written agreement with the city by Wednesday.

They also threatened to mount a First Amendment case in federal court if they don't get what they want.

The announcement came a day after an administrative law judge sided with the city in denying the group's request to march May 20 on a route starting at centrally located Daley Plaza. The judge ruled the route would place an "undue strain on city resources" and would eliminate two north-south streets as routes for NATO delegation motorcades.

The activists, who are protesting NATO's military strategies in Afghanistan and elsewhere, will agree to an alternate route that had been suggested verbally by a city official, said organizer Andy Thayer.

The group also wants the city to stand by their right to end their march where NATO summit attendees can see and hear them if the U.S. Secret Service sets up a wide security perimeter around McCormick Place, where the summit is scheduled May 20-21.

"The city and the federal government have to make a political decision that they're going to respect the rights that they claim that America stands for around the world," said Joe Iosbaker of the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda.

Chicago law department spokesman Roderick Drew said the city "is committed to protecting First Amendment rights of protesters while protecting public safety and health." The city's Department of Transportation is discussing alternate parade routes with the group, Drew said, and "we look forward to working with them to finalize plans for their event."

The protesters also want an agreement in writing that they'll be able to use a band shell in Grant Park without a fee or insurance requirement. That's another offer they say the city made verbally before the group decided to appeal the denial of its parade permit.

The group has been granted a permit to march on May 19, which is when the since-moved G-8 summit would have started in Chicago. The White House moved the G-8 meeting to Camp David, the presidential retreat near Washington.

Organizers want to move their march to the following day to coincide with the NATO meeting.

"We are committed to a peaceful protest," Thayer said.

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