Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has an early Valentine's Day gift for Chicago police as they continue to prepare for the concurrent NATO and G8 summits that the city will host, amidst threats of massive street protests, in May: some 3,000 new face shields.
The shields come with a $193,461 price tag, paid to the Colorado-based Super Seer Corporation, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, and were unilaterally approved by Emanuel using his City Council-approved power to approve the purchase of "emergency" goods and services that will help secure the upcoming summits.
The shields are larger and thicker than those previously at the department's disposal and also come with a liquid seal, which Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields reportedly demanded in order to protect officers from bags of urine and feces that he fears "anarchist" protesters could hurl at them.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) told Fox Chicago that the mayor's approval of the purchase fell within the powers that the City Council approved as part of the controversial summit protester ordinances earlier this year. And if more shields are still needed -- as the FOP argues they are -- that will be determined in the days ahead.
News of the purchase comes one day after the city announced that Vislink would work with Motorola Solutions to equip the city's fire and police department helicopters with "airborne surveillance technology" that will be used during the summits, the Sacramento Bee reports.
As the Chicago Tribune reported last week, groups from across the country with widely varying goals are planning to demonstrate at the summits, including a group of Wisconsin environmentalists and a California nurses union. Among local groups, the Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism and several others have already applied for and been granted demonstration permits by the city.
Of course, perhaps more ominous groups -- including the notorious hacktivists Anonymous and Adbusters -- are also calling on demonstrators to descend upon Chicago during the summits. Adbusters alone has put out the call for 50,000 people to set up camp in Chicago throughout the entire month of May.
The expected protests have caused some worry amongst those who fear the costs of securing the city's downtown area during the events could dent the pocketbooks of Chicago taxpayers, even as a national security advisor vowed, earlier this month, that he is confident the events the events "can go forward without a burden on the Chicago taxpayer."
Even so, the city's $6.2 million settlement, last week, with anti-war protesters who had accused the city of wrongfully arresting them during a peaceful demonstration against the Iraq war in 2003 proves that showdowns between police and protesters can come with lofty, sometimes unanticipated costs.