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State Republicans take Gov. Pritzker to court over size of political gatherings

pritzker in peoria pic

Springfield, IL - The Illinois Republican Party filed suit against Gov. JB Pritzker late Monday night, claiming he is violating their First Amendment rights to assemble. They want the federal court to exempt political parties from the 10 person limit on gatherings. ILGOP members compare it to the exemption Pritzker made for religious groups. The organization held a virtual convention over the weekend, but members are upset they couldn't meet in person similar to protesters in reaction to police brutality.

"Governor Pritzker is ruling Illinois like an unaccountable king where only he gets to decide which violations of his executive order have his blessing."

ILGOP Chairman Tim Schneider says his organization will not sit idly by while Pritzker applies one rule for himself and his political allies, and a separate rule for everyone else. He specifically mentioned the governor participating in a march alongside protesters in Matteson last week.

The lawsuit states the Republicans should be able to hold larger group meetings. At this time, the state could move into Phase 4 of Pritzker's "Restore Illinois" plan next week. That will allow gatherings of up to 50 people. Meanwhile, court cases usually span a longer period of time.

"We're asking a judge to issue an order in the near future - promptly - to make sure that our clients have the full ability to participate in the public square now, when it matters most," said Attorney Daniel Suhr.

Demanding First Amendment rights

The Liberty Justice Center is a non-profit conservative legal team specializing in constitutional rights. Three smaller Republican groups from the Chicago collar counties joined the statewide organization for the lawsuit against Pritzker.

"This isn't a lawsuit only on behalf of certain political entities. This is a lawsuit that really is going to benefit every citizen of Illinois because all of us have a stake in ensuring the First Amendment is followed. All of us have a stake in a robust public square," Suhr added.

However, the Pritzker administration disagrees.

"This is about scoring political points and criticizing civil rights protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement," stated Spokesperson Jordan Abudayyeh.

Schneider says peaceful protesters have just cause to exercise their First Amendment rights, but he feels "they aren't the only ones."

He argues Pritzker is the sole person deciding the types of violations allowed under his executive orders.

"Illinois businesses, Illinois families, Illinois jobs are suffering under this unaccountable king that we have as our governor. We need to push back. That's what this is all about," Schneider explained.

Even so, the GOP didn't explain how this lawsuit could actually help small business owners and Illinois families. They stress this lawsuit focuses on their equal rights to gather and plan for the 2020 general election in November.

Democrats respond

"The courts have repeatedly upheld the Governor’s executive orders as based on public health guidance," Abudayyeh stated. "As the Republicans who attended protests against the public health guidance are well aware, the State has never prevented people from exercising their First Amendment rights."

The Democratic Party of Illinois also responded to the lawsuit Tuesday. Executive Director Mary Morrissey says large groups of Republicans have gathered to protest Pritzker's reopening guidelines without legal ramifications.

"This lawsuit is a distraction from the real issue - a Republican president who the IL GOP considers the 'man of our time,' but has let over a hundred thousand Americans die because of his inaction. We support Governor Pritzker and the exemplary leadership he's shown throughout this public health crisis," Morrissey stated.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul's office will represent Pritzker in court.

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Mike Miletich

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