Will Progressive Protest Tactics Play in Springfield?

On April 15, dozens of pro-Palestine protesters blocked Interstate 190, an expressway that leads toward O’Hare International Airport. With no regard for commuters or emergency services that may have needed to use the road, the protest completely halted all traffic on the road for more than an hour. As a result, travelers were forced to leave their vehicles and trek along the roadtowards the airport, many of whom missed their flights. 

The disruption that took place on I-190 in April is just one of many examples of the far-left using protest tactics in Chicago to coerce appeasement in Springfield. Even after concerted efforts to bully their way into legislative change, these protesters have begun to lose ground in the Illinois General Assembly. 

Just two days after the disruptive and reckless actions of the protesters, Illinois State Representative Dan Ugaste (R – Geneva) filed HB 5819. The bill, which amends the Public Demonstrations Law, raises the charge of blocking a major roadway for more than five minutes to a Class 4 felony. Following its filing, several House Democrats quickly co-sponsored the legislation, including Deputy Majority Leader Natalie Manley. 

Democratic sponsorship of HB5819 adds to the list of bipartisan cooperatives to stand up against progressive protest tactics in recent weeks. In April, HB 303, which prohibits the Chicago Board of Education from approving school closures or making policy changes until a fully elected school board is in place, was amended following several changes urged by the Chicago Teachers Union. Just weeks after pushing for the amendment which expands the bill’s application to all schools instead of only those with selective admissions, CTU suddenly changed its mind and began demanding opposition towards the legislation. CTU and other powerful groups such as Raise the Floor Alliance opted to use a number of common protest tactics, including labeling the bill “cynical and racist.”

The groups’ strategies, especially its baseless claims of HB303’s ill intent, quickly backfired. The divisive rhetoric was met with pushback from several prominent Democrats, including Governor J.B. Pritzker, who said that the criticism was “uncalled for,” and Representative Curtis Tarver, who stated that CTU’s characterization of the bill was “absolutely disrespectful.” 

As it turns out, the hostile tactics that play in Chicago’s City Hall are not always effective at the State Capitol. Despite these groups’ strivings, elected officials on both sides of the aisle have continued to condemn political bullying from CTU and RTF. The State Board of Education found no racial impact and the bill eventually passed the House of Representatives, garnering “aye” votes from 70 of the 78 House Democrats. 

You can track the progress of House Bill 5819 and House Bill 303 at ilga.gov.