Activists preparing to protest the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago this week set a deadline by which they hope the federal government will disclose the long-awaited details of the security perimeter it plans to erect around the McCormick Place, where the meetings will take place next month.
Long-time Chicago activist Andy Thayer, one of the protest group's leaders, told CBS Chicago Friday that activists may take legal action unless the Secret Service opens up about how large the security perimeter will be around the convention center by 5 p.m. Monday. Some protesters are fearful that the feds will trump the recent agreement on a NATO protest route that activists reached with the city.
"The internationally-accepted standards for the exercise of what we call here in the United States the First Amendment, is for people to get within sight and sound of the object of their protest," Thayer told CBS. "This is the same thing that the United States lectured Eastern European countries about, so what's good enough for Warsaw or Prague should be good enough here for Chicago."
(Scroll down to watch a report on protesters' appeal to the Secret Service.)
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has also joined the call for a 5 p.m. Monday deadline for the Secret Service's security plan. The group pointed to a 2003 settlement where the McCormick Place entered into an agreement allowing for limited access to the facility by those wishing to "engage in free expression during events at the facility," the group said in a press release.
"We need to know if the Authority and the Secret Service are planning to violate that agreement, their justifications for doing so and what alternatives for communication they are willing to provide to those seeking to engage NATO attendees," Harvey Grossman, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois, said in the release.
"It is time for the Secret Service to release their plan," Grossman continued.
The activists' appeal to the federal government comes a matter of days after a report surfaced that the Secret Service has put out a request for proposal for a "major event planner" who would be able to supply the summit with materials including 8-foot-high anti-scaling fencing, portable light towers and 16-foot vehicle barriers and road-side concrete barriers, Government Security News reported.
ABC Chicago further reported that the city has what's called an LRAD (long range acoustic device), like one used during the G8 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009, at its disposal for the summit. The device delivers orders to disperse over a loud speaker, followed by audio tones that are potentially painful due to their high frequency. Pittsburgh's use of the device is currently the subject of ongoing litigation.
Additionally, the Chicago Tribune reports that between 500 and 600 members of the Illinois National Guard are expected to be deployed to Chicago during the summit in order to help move foreign dignitaries, via motorcades, throughout the downtown area.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a press conference Tuesday that the reports of additional security precautions weren't too different than what takes place at the site of national political conventions.
"I want you to understand that this is normally what Charlotte's going to do for a convention, Tampa's going to do for a convention," Emanuel said, according to the Tribune.
Nevertheless, all of the expected commotion likely contributed to the reason why the management of a downtown Chicago condo building advised its residents that it strongly urged them to move out of their homes for the weekend, Fox Chicago reports. The 17-floor building hired two armed off-duty police officers that will provide security for the building.
In other NATO-related news, the Secret Service announced this week that, despite previous rumors that they could be shut down altogether, Metra rail lines running underneath McCormick Place will remain open during the summit, but that commuters should anticipate delays. The Secret Service has not disclosed what specific sorts of delays commuters should expect, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Under the new agreement protesters made with the city, activists protesting the summit will gather May 20 at 2 p.m. at Grant Park's Petrillo Music Shell before marching toward McCormick Place. Despite the compromise, the city has not agreed to side with protesters should the Secret Service propose a tighter security plan for the summit that would preclude protesters from getting near the convention center.
Activists were originally granted a permit to march past Daley Plaza during the G8 Summit, one of two international assemblies Chicago was originally slated to host this summer. When the G8 Summit was relocated, the group requested the permit be moved from May 19 to May 20 to coincide with the NATO summit, and the Chicago Transportation Department initially turned them down.
WATCH a report on protesters' call for the Secret Service to disclose more information pertaining to its McCormick Place security plan:
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