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In Chicago, a mayor with activist roots prepares for a potentially volatile Democratic convention

CHICAGO — Mayor Brandon Johnson is the first to brandish his past activism and roots as an organizer. That has helped contribute to a now well-worn worry that he won’t rein in protesters during what’s expected to be a highly charged Democratic National Convention.

But so far, he has made few people happy before the August nominating event.

On one hand, critics argue Johnson won’t do enough to dissuade bad actors from coming to the city in the first place. On the other, protest groups are taking the city to court, complaining that it has denied their permits to march close to two main convention sites: the United Center and McCormick Place.

In an interview, Johnson, who just completed his first year in office, stressed that safety would come first but that law enforcement would also focus on de-escalation tactics and commit to giving activists room to peacefully protest. He won’t tolerate mayhem, he said.

“If people are in harm’s way, in any way or any form, I’m going to move with precision, as well as with constitutional policing and enforcement, to make sure that we are keeping people safe,” he said.

At the same time, when he was asked about overnight encampments like the kinds that impeded operations on college campuses, Johnson wouldn’t commit to clearing them.

“It just depends on the situation, quite frankly. If people are involved in an encampment that has put people in harm’s way, then it is my job to create a secure environment so that people are not in harm’s way,” he said. “If people are protesting peacefully, their First Amendment is protected. That’s a constitutional protection.”

Johnson noted the convention will take place around the time schools are back in session and said he is committed to

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