Feds Reveal Security Perimeter For NATO Summit
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Updated 04/24/12 – 9:34 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – The U.S. Secret Service has revealed security measures for next month’s NATO summit, which will push protesters a bit further away from McCormick Place than they originally planned to be.
The protesters’ May 20 march from Grant Park will now end at Cermak Road and Michigan Avenue, rather than Cermak and Indiana Avenue; that’s a block west of the final protest site approved by city officials earlier this month.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the city’s parade permit clearly stated the final route was subject to the then-secret security perimeter that the feds would establish around McCormick Place.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports, protesters said the Secret Service revealed to them that the security zone would be bounded by Lake Michigan on the east, 21st Street on the north, 25th Street on the south and Indiana Avenue on the west — with pedestrian-only fingers along Cermak Road and 23rd Street a block farther west, to Michigan Avenue.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
East of Lake Shore Drive, the northern end of the perimeter will be McFetridge Drive, between Soldier Field and the Field Museum.
In addition, Lake Shore Drive will be closed between Roosevelt Road and 31st Street. The Stevenson will effectively be closed east of the Dan Ryan Expressway.
That perimeter, revealed to protest groups Tuesday afternoon, meant the march and demonstration will stop a block short of their original destination, at Cermak and Michigan rather than Cermak and Indiana.
Chicago Police Deputy Supt. Debra Kirby said, “protest is a good sign of a strong democracy. First Amendment activity is what we embrace as Americans, and it’s what we’re here to support as the Chicago Police Department.”
But protest organizer Andy Thayer said, “I would not characterize what happened today as a victory for free speech at all, because they’re going to be holding their meetings in the McCormick Place South building (at King Drive and Indiana Avenue). The media is going to be at the North building, and so people are going to be blocks away. This is not (within) sight and sound (of the summit).”
Thayer considers that hypocritical because he says it has strongly suggested to foreign governments in the past that protesters be allowed with the limits of sight and sound.
Even so, Thayer said protesters will march along their planned route and end with a protest rally at Cermak and Michigan, just outside the security perimeter.
“We have made a decision that our march will continue, basically on the route that we have laid out with the city,” he said. “We will hold the city to its commitment to basically keep to the march route that we negotiated with them, outside of the security perimeter set up by the federal government.”
Fellow organizer Joseph Iosbaker said “We believe that what they’re doing is they’re continuing to bow to the public pressure that supported us. I don’t think they wanted us anywhere close to McCormick Place.”
The protestors were just one group affected by Tuesday’s announcement.
Residents and business in the South Loop near McCormick Place had been waiting for word about the Secret Service security plans as well.
As CBS 2′s Mike Parker reports, luckily the zone within the security perimeter is sparsely populated, with only a couple high-rise apartment buildings and a handful of small businesses, such as Primerica Financial Services at 21st and Michigan.
“We’re trying to make arrangements right now, what we’re going to do during that particular season,” Primerica representative Michael Evans said. “Because, with that happening in the area, and for the period of time it’s happening, they’re going to shut down all these businesses here, which is going to be a tough time.”
Local residents, like Bonita Davis, said they are more than a little unnerved by what’s coming.
“It would make a huge difference, especially with traveling back and forth, to and from work,” Davis said. “Not just with that, but coming in and out of the community, with the extra security.”
Parking and private vehicles will likely be banned within the security perimeter.
Some residents and business owners in the area attended a meeting Tuesday morning with security officials and consultants.
Former Police Supt. Terry Hillard, co-founder of the private security firm Hillard Heintze, assured local business owners that, during the summit, “You’re going to be well protected. Are there going to be a few knuckleheads? Yes there will be. But … Deb Kirby and the Chicago Police Department have made contingency plans for that.”
Hillard Heintze security specialist Tom Kasza also told business owners that a fence would go around McCormick Place to serve as a “hard checkpoint” during the summit, but he assured them the security perimeter would not be as large as many people feared.
Indeed, the announced security perimeter extends only about a block west and north of McCormick Place West, while the Stevenson Expressway and the lakefront provide existing barriers to the south and east of the convention center.
Thayer shared more from the Secret Service. The metal fencing around McCormick Place will go up on the Tuesday before the summit and the checkpoints will go into effect as early as the Friday before the summit.
ACLU of Illinois legal director Harvey Grossman said that meetings will continue between the Secret Service and ACLU about free speech venues elsewhere in the city.