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NATO In Chicago: Summit Gives City Coveted Global Spotlight, Attracts Protests (PHOTOS)

By TAMMY WEBBER 05/17/12 12:55 AM ET AP

Nato Summit Chicago Protests
Protesters gather in front of a federal Immigration Court building Tuesday, May 15, 2012, in Chicago. Dozens picketed Tuesday, one of many protests planned in the days leading up to the NATO summit. The gathering of heads of state begins this weekend. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

CHICAGO -- The famous skyline is etched with distinctive buildings. The downtown boasts a vibrant cultural district. And the stunning lakefront and art-filled parks attract thousands of visitors every day.

The Chicago of 2012 is a sparkling, fast-globalizing financial-services center and a cradle for high-tech startups. Yet in much of the world, the nation's third-largest city is more likely to conjure images of long-dead mobsters, demolished steel mills or a red-faced Mayor Richard J. Daley defending how police cracked protesters' heads at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

So it's difficult to overstate the importance of this weekend's NATO summit to business and tourism leaders – or how critical it is for the event to unfold smoothly, despite the potential for large protests.

"We ought to be known for something more than the old stockyards, smog or Al Capone, but we aren't," said Richard Longworth, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "People are surprised when they visit, and that's why" Mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted the summit.

"We have to stop being a surprise," Longworth added.

Twenty-first century Chicago depends more than ever on its international reputation in the quest for jobs, investment from abroad and markets for its exports. Yet it still struggles with familiar problems, such as subpar schools, segregation and corruption. And in its last attempt to draw world attention, a bid for the 2016 Olympics, the city was embarrassed to be eliminated in the first round.

Chicago has changed profoundly since the 1968 debacle. Back then, the steel mills still belched smoke. The stockyards, while a shadow of what they had once been, were still a couple of years from closing altogether, as anyone with a nose could tell you when the wind shifted.

What had long been one of the most racially divided cities in the nation was also angry, on edge. Big chunks of it were still smoldering from the rioting that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And nobody had forgotten the mayor's still-famous order to shoot to kill arsonists and shoot to maim looters.

In the years since, a second Mayor Daley has come and gone. Richard M. Daley, who took over the city 10 years after his father died and retired in 2011 after 22 years in office, is largely credited for leading the transformation from a gritty industrial center to a booming hub of international commerce.

Chicago is now headquarters of Boeing Co. and United Continental, corporations he lured with millions in financial incentives. Donald Trump's 98-story tower is among the newest additions to the skyline. And dozens of startup companies have taken root here, including Groupon, a web sensation that has served to anchor the tech culture.

"Ten years ago, you wouldn't have mentioned Chicago" when talking about Internet and high-tech companies, said venture capitalist Eric Lefkofsky, a co-founder of Groupon Inc. and several other Internet startups.

"Today it's mentioned all the time" in the same sentence as Silicon Valley or New York. "When people come here ... they're blown away. They have no idea we have an amazing theater district, an amazing restaurant district and great shopping. They just had no idea."

Those attractions will be on full display when delegations from about 60 countries, including 50 heads of state, attend the meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Sunday and Monday. More than 2,000 journalists will be here, too, to cover the summit, where the alliance of the U.S. and European countries will discuss issues such as the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense.

Although the visits will be brief, the potential payoff is enormous, officials said.

"From a marketing standpoint, to have that many opinion leaders from that many nations" offers an unprecedented opportunity to promote business "and the fact that we really truly are a global city," said Rita Athas, president of World Business Chicago, a group of powerful executives working with Emanuel to promote the city and attract investment.

The summit also carries potential risks, especially if the police department, which never completely shed its reputation for brutality, has violent confrontations with the thousands of expected demonstrators.

Obama took a gamble by announcing that both the G-8 and NATO summits would be held in his hometown during a presidential election year. His later decision to move the G-8 meeting of leading industrialized nations to Camp David may have been an acknowledgment of those risks.

"If there were a major clash in Chicago (at the NATO summit) and the police ended up acting with a heavy hand ... I think it would seriously undermine Chicago's reputation as an enlightened world city," said Todd Gitlin, a sociology professor at Columbia University who has written extensively about the 1968 convention, where Chicago police violently clashed with an estimated 10,000 protesters. "There is a lot riding on it."

For all of its progress, the city's global reputation has remained largely mired in the past. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin recently took a dig at Chicago when asked about possible plans to attend the NATO summit.

"Yes, they say (Chicago is) good. Al Capone lived there," Putin said.

And the city is bedeviled by longtime demons. Corruption still makes the front page, years after lawsuits and prosecutions put an official end to the infamous Chicago political machine. It's one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the country, and it's wrestling with a budget deficit of more than $600 million. Half of public high school students drop out before graduating.

Timuel Black, a veteran civil rights activist and history professor on the South Side, said the NATO summit might be a boon for Chicago's downtown and for businesses and residents who are already successful.

But he doubts it will do anything for the most impoverished neighborhoods that have only become poorer and more violent with the loss of jobs and the widening of the gap between rich and poor.

"They're concerned about schools, health care, jobs for themselves and their kids, and they just don't see the benefit" of a NATO summit, said Black, who is 93.

Longworth, from the Council on Global Affairs, said a successful summit could attract more development and tourists.

"It is not going to solve the city's problems in one stroke," he said. "But the city really does need this exposure."

___

Associated Press Writer Don Babwin contributed to this report.

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  • An anti-NATO protestor flashes peace signs during a march, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Chicago. On Sunday, the start of the two-day NATO summit, thousands of protesters are expected to march to the McCormick Place convention center, where NATO delegates will be meeting. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • A bleeding anti-NATO protestor is comforted after a scuffle with police during a march, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Chicago. On Sunday, the start of the two-day NATO summit, thousands of protesters are expected to march to the McCormick Place convention center, where NATO delegates will be meeting. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • A bride and groom walk past as Chicago Occupy Wall Street Protesters march through the streets of downtown Chicago, Illinois, May 19, 2012, on the eve of the NATO summit. After a decade in Afghanistan, NATO leaders gather for a key summit May 20, 2012, hoping for a show of unity in the final two years of combat -- even though allies are eager to bring troops home. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Chicago Occupy Wall Street Protesters march through the streets of downtown Chicago, Illinois, May 19, 2012, on the eve of the NATO summit. After a decade in Afghanistan, NATO leaders gather for a key summit May 20, 2012, hoping for a show of unity in the final two years of combat -- even though allies are eager to bring troops home. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A Chicago Occupy Wall Street Protester marches down Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, Illinois, May 19, 2012, on the eve of the NATO summit. After a decade in Afghanistan, NATO leaders gather for a key summit May 20, 2012, hoping for a show of unity in the final two years of combat -- even though allies are eager to bring troops home. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A NATO protestor is arrested after refusing to let go of a police bicycle, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Chicago. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the NATO summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Amy Rule, Rahm Emanuel

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are greeted by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, center, and wife Amy Rule, during their arrival at OÂ'Hare International airport in Chicago, Saturday, May, 19, 2012. Obama traveled to Chicago to host the two-day NATO summit. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Barack Obama, Michelle Obama

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at Chicago O'Hare International Airport to attend the NATO Summit Saturday, May 19, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

  • Barack Obama, Michelle Obama

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at Chicago OÂ'Hare International airport in Chicago, Saturday, May, 19, 2012. Obama traveled to Chicago to host the two-day NATO summit. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Amy Rule

    President Barack Obama center, talks with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel right, and his wife Amy Rule left, before boarding Marine One, after arriving at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Saturday, May, 19, 2012. Obama traveled to Chicago to host the two-day NATO summit. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

  • Barack Obama, Michelle Obama

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at Chicago O'Hare International Airport to attend the NATO Summit Saturday, May 19, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

  • President of France François Hollande arrives at O'Hare Airport to attend the NATO Summit Saturday, May 19, 2012 in Chicago. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the NATO summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus arrives at O'Hare Airport to attend the NATO Summit Saturday, May 19, 2012 in Chicago. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • Ivo Daalder

    Ivo Daalder, US Ambassador to NATO sings during the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field during the seventh inning of an interleague baseball game with the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

  • A protester sits in front of Chicago police officers on State Street during a NATO summit demonstration in downtown Chicago, Saturday, May 19, 2012. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/ Nam Y. Huh)

  • A protester marches next Chicago police mounted patrols on Michigan Avenue during a NATO summit demonstration in Chicago, Saturday, May 19, 2012. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/ Nam Y. Huh)

  • A police officer wrestles with the hand of an NATO protestor who refused to let go of her bicycle, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Chicago. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the NATO summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • An anti-NATO protestor commandeers a police barricade during a march, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Chicago. On Sunday, the start of the two-day NATO summit, thousands of protesters are expected to march to the McCormick Place convention center, where NATO delegates will be meeting. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • A protester holds a sign as he marches during a NATO summit demonstration in downtown Chicago, Saturday, May 19, 2012. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  • Magode

    Chicago police officer captain Magode, center, talks with protesters on State Street during a NATO summit demonstration in downtown Chicago, Saturday, May 19, 2012. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • Police officers line up as protesters march during a NATO summit demonstration in downtown Chicago, Saturday, May 19, 2012. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  • NATO Flags

    Flags representing the NATO countries are displayed at Wrigley Field in a pregame ceremony before an interleague baseball game with the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

  • Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard arrives at O'Hare Airport to attend the NATO Summit Saturday, May 19, 2012 in Chicago. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • NATO demonstrators march towards Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Chicago. On Sunday, the start of the two-day NATO summit, thousands of protesters are expected to march to the McCormick Place convention center, where NATO delegates will be meeting. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • Sheik Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates arrives at O'Hare Airport to attend the NATO Summit Saturday, May 19, 2012 in Chicago. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • Brent Vincent Betterly, Jared Chase, Brian Church

    This combo made from undated photos released Saturday, May 19, 2012 by the Chicago Police Department shows from left, Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla., Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H., and Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The three men arrested Wednesday, May 16, 2012, in Chicago, accused of making Molotov cocktails with plans to attack President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home and other targets during this weekend's NATO summit, according to prosecutors at a court hearing Saturday. The three were arrested in a nighttime raid of an apartment in the city's South Side Bridgeport neighborhood ahead of the two-day meeting. (AP Photo/Chicago Police Department)

  • Occupy Chicago protesters march down Montrose Avenue to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emaunel's house during a demonstration Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Chicago. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the NATO summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Protesters march on Montrose Avenue during a NATO summit demonstration in Chicago, Saturday, May 19, 2012. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/ Nam Y. Huh)

  • Occupy Chicago protesters sit in the street outside Chicago Mayor Rahm Emaunel's house during a march and demonstration Saturday, May 19 2012, in Chicago. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the NATO summit, where delegations from about 60 countries will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Ivan Gasparovic, president of the Slovak Republic, arrives arrives at O'Hare Airport to attend the NATO Summit Saturday, May 19, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • Protesters walk past Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Chicago, ahead of this weekends' NATO summit in Chicago. On Sunday, the start of the two-day NATO summit, thousands of protesters are expected to march to the McCormick Place convention center, where NATO delegates will be meeting. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • A protester walks past Chicago police officers outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Chicago, ahead of this weekend's NATO summit in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Protester Chris Litchfield, left, from Wooster, Mass., copies the emergency legal assistance number off the arm of Mitch L. Miller, from Washington, Saturday, May 19 2012, ahead of this weekend's NATO summit in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Garry McCarthy

    Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, right, talks with one of his commanders across the street at Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house Saturday, May 19, 2012, ahead of this weekend's NATO summit in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Protesters gather at Irving Park Brown Line to canvas Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's neighborhood as part of a NATO summit demonstration in Chicago, Saturday, May 19, 2012. (AP Photo/ Nam Y. Huh)

  • Protesters march in front of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house as part of a NATO summit demonstration in Chicago, Saturday, May 19, 2012. (AP Photo/ Nam Y. Huh)

  • Who should I be shooting?

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Keith_Habersberger"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/22914183/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Keith_Habersberger">Keith Habersberger</a>:<br />John Adams asked this gentleman "who I would be shooting right now?" and he couldn't say... wonder if he ever thinks about the lives of the people he thinks John Adams would shoot? www.imadeamerica.com

  • May 18: Police lined up with bicycles to prevent protesters from entering the street... accept there weren't any protesters after the first few minutes. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanryanryan/" target="_hplink">Photo by Ryan Williams</a>.</em>

  • May 18: CPD blocked stairwell exits off Michigan Ave at Illinois to push Occupy protesters from the splinter march down Michigan. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanryanryan/" target="_hplink">Photo by Ryan Williams</a>.</em>

  • Protesters block traffic on Michigan Ave., as they march through the city during a demonstration Friday, May 18, 2012, ahead of this weekends' NATO summit in Chicago. Thousands of nurses and other protesters gathered for the noisy but largely peaceful demonstration with a broad spectrum of causes, from anti-war activists to Occupy protesters to a Chicago WomenÂ's AIDS project. The demonstrations Friday were the largest yet ahead of a two-day NATO summit that is expected to draw even larger protests. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • A member of National Nurses United, protests at a NATO summit demonstration at Daley Plaza, Friday, May 18 2012, in Chicago. Thousands of nurses and other protesters gathered for the noisy but largely peaceful demonstration with a broad spectrum of causes, from anti-war activists to Occupy protesters to a Chicago WomenÂ's AIDS project. The demonstrations Friday were the largest yet ahead of a two-day NATO summit that is expected to draw even larger protests. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • Tom Morello

    Eminent musician Tom Morello performs at a NATO summit demonstration at Daley Plaza, Friday, May 18 2012, in Chicago. Thousands of nurses and other protesters gathered for the noisy but largely peaceful demonstration with a broad spectrum of causes, from anti-war activists to Occupy protesters to a Chicago WomenÂ's AIDS project. The demonstrations Friday were the largest yet ahead of a two-day NATO summit that is expected to draw even larger protests. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • A protester tears down a NATO summit banner from one of the bridge towers along the Chicago River at the Michigan Ave. bridge in Chicago. Friday, May 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Nomaan Merchant)

  • A member of National Nurses United, protests at a NATO summit demonstration at Daley Plaza, Friday, May 18 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/ Nam Y. Huh)

  • Protesters dance in the street as they block traffic during a demonstration Friday, May 18 2012, ahead of this weekends' NATO summit in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • A protester pounds out a beat on a newspaper stand as they block traffic while marching through the city during a demonstration Friday, May 18 2012, ahead of this weekends' NATO summit in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • May 18: Probably at the older end of the movement. This "greatful grandmother" was a big hit. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanryanryan/" target="_hplink">Photo by Ryan Williams</a>.</em>

  • May 18: At the end of the break-off march, people gathered at one of the places where it all began - the horse statue at Congress and Michigan. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanryanryan/" target="_hplink">Photo by Ryan Williams</a>.</em>

  • Protesters march through the streets of downtown Chicago at a NATO summit demonstration in downtown Chicago, Friday, May 18 2012. (AP Photo/ Nam Y. Huh)

  • An unidentified Chicago police officer removes himself from marching protesters on Michigan Ave., during a demonstration Friday, May 18 2012, ahead of this weekends' NATO summit in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Protesters block traffic on Michigan Avenue as they march through the city during a demonstration Friday, May 18 2012, ahead of this weekends' NATO summit in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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