CHICAGO (CBS) — The head of the host committee of the NATO/G8 Summits is disputing reports that part of downtown Chicago could be on “lockdown” during the meeting of the world leaders this May.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports a large security perimeter will be set up for the May 19-21 meetings at McCormick Place, blocking access to some downtown streets and prohibiting driving and parking. The city must reimburse the company that leases Chicago parking meters for lost revenue.
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But Lori Healey, the head of Chicago’s host committee, disagrees any plans are set in stone at this point.
“It’s way too preliminary in the planning process for these summits in order to release that kind of a blanket statement,” she told reporters. “We’re working very closely with our partners at the federal level who are responsible for security for the summits.”
“I want to clarify and say they are working very diligently with us to ensure that Chicago is open for business,” Healey added.
She acknowledged the U.S. Secret Service will have the final say during the summits. They are expected to draw throngs of protesters.
Also Thursday, the city granted the first protest parade permit and eased some new restrictions on demonstrators after critics said Mayor Emanuel was stifling free speech. Ward 27 Ald. Walter Burnett said rolling back some of the restrictions could actually lessen the disruptions.
Under the easing of the restrictions, the city will lower the maximum fines proposed and ease the time limits proposed for demonstrations.
The city will also have areas for protestors to gather, with some actually quite close to McCormick place. Chicago will even provide demonstrators with sound systems to portable toilets.
There will be curfews for parks and beaches and a ban on loudspeakers overnight. But overall, it’s a distinct softening of Emanuel’s earlier stance.
Andy Thayer received the first permit, allowing a march from Daley Center Plaza to 23rd and Michigan, near McCormick Place. He was troubled with one condition, which would allow the Secret Service to effectively change the route for security purposes.
“This is the route that we want,” Thayer said.
Healey also revealed for the first time that it could cost as much as $65 million for Chicago to host the summits, though taxpayers, she said, would not be paying the bills for things like special security.