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City, NATO Protesters Reach Deal On Protest March Route

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McCormick Place

McCormick Place (CBS File Photo)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Anti-war activists planning a protest rally during the NATO summit in May have reached a compromise with city officials over the route of their planned protest march on the opening day of the summit.

CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports the protesters wanted to get as close to the global leaders’ meeting at McCormick Place as they could, which they will be able to do under the current route.

But the protesters said they’re concerned the Secret Service or other federal authorities might later impose tighter security restrictions that would prevent them from protesting anywhere near the summit.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty Reports

Leaders of the protest coalition and city officials came to an agreement late Wednesday afternoon, with the city signing off on a permit that allows the protest to start with a rally in Grant Park at 2 p.m. on May 20, rather than starting the rally at Daley Plaza as the protesters originally wanted.

Their march route will take them west from the park along Jackson Boulevard to State Street, then south to Harrison Street, east to Michigan Avenue, then south to Cermak Road and east to Indiana Avenue, where they will be allowed to rally in the street at the northwest corner of the McCormick Place complex.

However, the protesters must wrap up their protest by 4:15 p.m.

The new route is similar to an alternate route the city proposed when it rejected the protesters’ request to start with a rally in Daley Plaza, followed by a march through the Loop. The city said a protest through the Loop would be too much of a burden on city resources while also providing security for NATO delegates who will be arriving for the summit and traveling from downtown hotels to McCormick Place.

The agreed-upon route would take their march through only two blocks within the Loop, rather than more than six blocks as protesters originally wanted.

However, demonstrators said they fear federal security measures that have yet to be announced could prevent them from getting to McCormick Place as they want.

“We’ve had a problem in other cities with these national special security events, where the feds come in and they put sweeping barriers down that are not just an inconvenience to local businesses and residents, but also keep people way away from the object they’re protesting; in this case, of course, the NATO summit at McCormick,” protest organizer Andy Thayer said. “So that’s our real concern right now, is that the feds typically do this about two to four weeks before the event, specifically so they can forestall a successful federal court challenge.”

Thayer wanted an agreement in writing that the city would help the protesters fight any move by the feds to establish security restrictions that would stop the protesters from being at McCormick Place, but the city made no such promise.

The protesters still hold a permit for a rally at Daley Plaza on May 19, the day before the NATO summit, followed by a march through the Loop and then to McCormick Place. That protest rally was planned before the G8 summit that weekend was moved to Camp David, Maryland, and demonstrators have yet to decide if they will make use of that permit.

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