Chicago PD break up parties in violation of stay at home order

Shelter in place or stay at home orders, social distancing and self-isolation are about all we have going for us at the moment in terms of at least slowing the spread of the pandemic. But all of those schemes are only effective on one condition. People have to actually follow the instructions. So what do you do when a bunch of idiots who apparently think they are immortal decides to defy the orders and party like it’s 1999? (Or any other era when we weren’t dealing with a deadly pandemic.) Well, in the case of the Windy City, you send in the cops to bust up the party and send everyone home. (CBS Chicago)

Chicago police broke up at least two house parties Saturday night as dozens of people there defied orders to stay at home and keep away from large groups during the coronavirus pandemic.

Police got a call about a party in the Noble Square neighborhood. Officers showed up around midnight and found dozens of people inside a home near Greenview Avenue and Blackhawk Street. Officers then told everyone to leave.

One woman leaving the party said around 30 people, mainly family and friends, attended.

Shortly after that incident, the cops were called to a second, equally large gathering in a different part of town. They were also instructed to break up the festivities and go home. Nobody was arrested in either case, though warnings were issued.

This brings up a number of questions. If there was just one asymptomatic person at each party who didn’t know they had the virus, they could have generated sixty more cases for the local hospitals to deal with. The people engaging in these activities aren’t only risking the health and safety of their fellow partygoers, either. They’re endangering the police who have to show up and drag them out. Many of the police departments can’t even find enough protective masks and other safety gear for their own officers.

The other side of this coin has to do with the fact that the report indicates nobody was arrested at either party. Could they have been? And if the Chicago PD did try to haul them in, what would they be charged with? Assuming there were no illegal drugs, everyone was of legal drinking age and they had all been invited to come to the apartment, what law would they have broken?

This circles back to questions I’ve raised here in the past about the limits of executive authority and emergency powers during a crisis. Just because the Mayor issued a public “order” for everyone to shelter in place and not gather together in groups larger than ten people, there was no new municipal ordinance passed. There is no law on the books that they could be charged with when they showed up in front of a judge. And as much as it pains us to admit it, stupidity is still not a crime.

Mayors and governors can issue orders like these and the courts have generally backed them up, at least for the duration of a significant crisis. But under the rule of law, we still rely largely on the cooperation of the public to achieve the desired effect. Are we seriously going to start throwing people in jail if they go to a party at their friend’s apartment?

Well, that’s what they’re doing in Great Britain starting today. BoJo just issued orders that prohibit public gatherings of more than two people who don’t live together. And you’re only allowed to leave your home under a few specific circumstances. The Brits were informed that the police have the authority to detain them and that they will be subject to fines. But the Brits don’t have a set of constitutionally assured rights like we do. If the cops in Chicago actually start arresting idiots who are still throwing big parties and those people wind up in court, could a case really be brought against them? If so, we may have lived to see dangerous times in more ways than one.