Reporting Derrick Blakley
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CHICAGO (CBS) – We’re starting to see more and more signs of what life will be like during the NATO summit.
With just five days to go, the protests are getting louder, with a total of 12 arrests over the past two days.
CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports the biggest anti-NATO march got a big boost on Tuesday, as city officials authorized setting up a stage near McCormick Place for Sunday’s protest rally during the start of the summit.
The agreement means thousands of demonstrators will not only be allowed to march to a point near where the NATO meetings will take place, they’ll also have a stage and sound system to help anti-war veterans get their message out.
Protest organizer Andy Thayer said, “Our issue with the city was that they were not giving us an answer about whether or not we could set up that equipment.”
The march will begin in Grant Park and end at Cermak Road and Michigan Avenue, about two blocks away from McCormick Place South, where the NATO summit will be held. But the McCormick Place West building, which will be empty during the summit, will block the protest rally from having a direct line of sight to the summit, and vice versa.
All along, protesters wanted a stage and sound system for their rally, to hold a ceremony at which veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would denounce the wars and return their service medals.
On Tuesday, the city approved a permit for the stage and sound system.
Thayer said it’s a victory for the anti-NATO protesters.
While the protesters were declaring victory, Illinois Natural Guard troops, dressed in civilian clothes, were out on reconnaissance. They’ll be transporting delegations of foreign dignitaries, and were familiarizing themselves with the pick-up and drop-off points for the delegates’ motorcades.
Around the convention center, the delegations will be getting a smooth ride.
Cermak Road has been repaved just in time for the summit.
Protest organizers insist worries about violence are overblown.
Nurses, planning a Friday protest rally, said they are committed to peaceful protest.
Jan Rodolfo, with National Nurses United, said, “Anybody who loads those buses from around the country to come to Chicago is signing a pledge of non-violence, making that commitment personally before they get on the bus.”
Ronald Schupp, an organizer for the Coalition Against NATO/G8, said “We’re against violence, we abhor violence, we’re not going to have any part of that.”
But some government offices aren’t taking any chances. The Illinois Secretary of State’s offices in the Thompson Center, and at 69 W. Washington St., will both be closed Friday and Monday.
Spokesman Dave Druker said, “With all the activities of NATO, and potential demonstrators, and that sort of thing, … there really, probably, wasn’t going to be a lot of business.”
As for the decision to repave Cermak Road, city officials said that has been scheduled for two years, long before the summit was planned, and the timing was just a coincidence.
Two other Cook County offices will shut down because of the summit. Traffic Court at the Daley Center will be closed on Friday, and cases set for Friday have been rescheduled. In addition, no marriages or civil unions will be performed at the Marriage Court at the County Building on Saturday.
Both Traffic Court and the Marriage Court will reopen on Monday.