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Group wants city to take down "offensive" street sign honoring Bangladesh's former president

By Bethany Krajelis | Feb 27, 2015

A branch of Bangladesh's controlling political party has filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago, claiming an honorary street sign in Rogers Park is named after a man "responsible for the turmoil and eventual fall of Bangladesh in 1971."

US Awami League Inc., a branch of the Bangladesh Awami League, sued the city on Feb. 26 in Chicago's federal court, seeking a declaration that the city's honorary street sign ordinance is unconstitutional.

At the crux of the group's suit is a street sign honoring Ziaur Rahman in the 6700 block of North Clark Street. The city, according to the suit, passed an ordinance on Sept. 14, 2014 that approved the erection of the sign.

In doing so, the US Awami League claims, the city interfered with the federal government's power to conduct foreign affairs because the sign "is politically offensive to the country of Bangladesh and would embarrass the United States in terms of its dealings with that country."

Further, the suit alleges, the city violated Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, "which prohibits a state or municipality from enacting any law that is in conflict with the laws of the United States."

In naming a street after Rahman, the group says the city "honored a military dictator who was against democracy and liberalism since he toppled a democratic government and was responsible for the gruesome murder of the founding father of Bangladesh ... and 18 members of his family."

According to the suit, Rahman ruled Bangladesh from 1975 to 1981, when about 2,500 armed forces and civilians were apparently killed trying to get him out of power.

The US Awami League says the city has refused requests from the U.S. State Department and the ambassador from Bangladesh to take the sign down.

Chicago attorney Joel F. Handler filed the suit on the group's behalf.

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