Downtown Chicago Lockdown? NATO, G8 Summits To Restrict Loop Access
Members of the Occupy movement and other protesters have already expressed frustration with new rules Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed for the upcoming NATO/G8 summits, and a security perimeter being put in place by the secret service may ignite even more controversy.
While Emanuel has come up with increased security measures of his own -- which the City Council will vote on next week -- host committee spokeswoman Jennifer Martinez told the Chicago Sun-Times that a downtown lockdown would be part of the federal government's security plan.
Martinez told the Sun-Times that the secret service will likely put a large security perimeter around McCormick Place, which would block people from walking or driving in the area. Access to the Loop will also be restricted, but details may not be available until the weeks leading up to the May event.
Expected street closures will likely leave Chicago with a bill from Chicago Parking Meters, LLC once again. The city's controversial parking meter deal requires Chicago to compensate the company for lost revenue due to street closures. Martinez, however, told the Sun-Times this burden would not fall on taxpayers.
“We are committed, through private and federal resources, to pay for the costs associated with the summit so it’s not a burden on taxpayers. This would be a cost associated with the summit. And we are committed to paying for it,” she told the paper.
On Thursday, the city issued its first protest permit to the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda, and Mayor Emanuel said the city stands "in strong support of the applicant organizations’ First Amendment right to protest,” NBC Chicago reports.
The permit comes after activists announced plans to sue the city over new protest rules put in place. Emanuel initially said the rules would only be in place for the NATO and G8 summits, but later said they would be permanent.
Emanuel's plan would double fines for resisting a police officer from its current range of $25 to $500 to $200 to $1,000. The mayor's ordinance will also restrict the hours of public parks, playgrounds and beaches in accordance with the Chicago Park District's hours of operation. A second ordinance applying to the protests requires organizers to provide a parade marshal of their own for every 100 demonstration participants.
The Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism called the ordinances "ridiculously burdensome" and some groups said they would sue if the changes are approved.
Long-time Chicago activist Don Rose said last week the new rules could actually encourage the sort of 1968 Democratic National Convention-esque confrontation the mayor's office would probably like to avoid.
"The more pugnacious the city gets, the more provocative it becomes," Rose said, according to NBC.
President Obama and other world leaders are expected to attend the May summits, which are expected to give local restaurants, hotels and shops a revenue boost.
"This is big for our city, it's an opportunity for our city to be on the map of the world, it's also an opportunity to bring more economic development to our city, so we want to put our best face forward as a city being viewed by the whole world," Alderman Walter Burnett (27th) told ABC Chicago.
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