Federal law enforcement agents decked out in their "battle" gear are expected to arrive in Chicago next week to prepare for the upcoming NATO Summit -- which is still over three weeks away.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Federal Protective Service will be on hand to secure an area in the Loop including the Dirksen Federal Courthouse and the Metropolitan Correctional Center, in addition to a group of federally-owned buildings located on State Street. The "red zone" extends west between State and Franklin, is bordered on the north by Adams and the south by Harrison.
The operation will be "highly visible" but will not prevent anyone from entering the protected zone, according to the Sun-Times. Their goal reportedly is to ensure that business continues as usual inside the federal buildings. There have been no specific threats reported to date.
The Sun-Times further reported that NATO Host Committee Executive Director Lori Healey was "surprised" to hear of "Operation Red Zone."
Healey commented Thursday that "obviously, the federal government doesn’t consult with the city when they do this," WGN reports.
"Everybody was unaware of this. It's my understanding that it’s common practice for the federal government to have protection around their own buildings. I really can't comment on it other than that, although I'm sure there are discussions going on today with them," Healey continued, according to WGN.
Meanwhile, a report suggested late Wednesday that Milwaukee-area American Red Cross chapters have been told by the city of Chicago and Secret Service to prepare for the possibility that Chicagoans could need to be evacuated as a result of "unrest or another national security incident," CBS Chicago reports.
The city's Office of Emergency Management and Communication said the order did not come from them and the Secret Service did not comment on the report, according to CBS.
In other NATO news, a 60-year-old man was arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing Monday evening in City Hall after he told officers "it is my moral obligation not to leave and to stop NATO from coming to Chicago," the Chicago Tribune reports.
On Tuesday, the Coalition Against NATO/G8 protest group said that the Secret Service unveiled their McCormick Place security perimeter after they threatened to take legal action unless the plan went public. Andy Thayer, spokesman for the group, said the security boundaries will extend west from Lake Michigan to the Dan Ryan Expressway. The northern boundary, Thayer claimed, is fluid, varying between 21st Street and West Roosevelt depending on summit activities and the southern boundary is I-55.
The Secret Service would not say whether that report was valid.
The NATO summit is set to take place May 20-21 and attract 10,000 attendees -- including about 2,000 journalists -- plus many protesters. Chicago magazine has put together a bang-up NATO weekend survival guide including details on closures, protest zones and more.
Check out some of the developments that have preceded the NATO summit's arrival in Chicago: