Updated 03/05/12 – 5:03 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — In a surprise move, the White House has announced the upcoming G8 summit will be moved from Chicago to Camp David. The NATO summit scheduled for the same weekend will stay in Chicago.
As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, the G8 and NATO summits had both originally been planned to be held at McCormick Place over the weekend of May 19-21, with the G8 summit running from May 18-19, followed by the NATO summit on May 20-21.
But Monday afternoon, the White House announced the G8 summit would be held at Camp David instead.
“To facilitate a free-flowing discussion with our close G8 partners, the President is inviting his fellow G8 leaders to Camp David on May 18-19 for the G8 Summit, which will address a broad range of economic, political and security issues,” the White House said in a prepared statement.
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The National Security Office explained in its own statement that, “The President thought Camp David would provide an informal and intimate setting to have a free-flowing discussion with his fellow leaders. He very much looks forward to coming to his home town for a critically important NATO summit as planned.”
The decision came as a surprise to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was praising city’s plans to host the G8 summit as recently as Monday morning, when asked about downtown businesses preparing for the possibility of having to board up windows if expected G8 protests were to turn violent.
“I think this is a unique opportunity for Chicago to showcase itself to the world, and the world to see the city of Chicago. I think our police department is highly trained, very professional, with the right leadership,” he said.
The mayor also praised the city’s handling of multiple protests by “Occupy Chicago” activists last year, noting Chicago did not see violent clashes with police that happened in other protests by the Occupy movement.
“And, as you saw over the fall, Chicago – unlike any other city – did not have any issues. It had the ability to protect people’s First Amendment rights, and also to enforce the law, and I think you’ll see that in the weeks ahead,” Emanuel said.
After learning of the decision to move the G8 summit to Camp David, the mayor’s office offered a positive spin.
“We wish President (Barack) Obama and the other leaders well at the G-8 meeting at Camp David and look forward to hosting the NATO Summit in Chicago,” a prepared statement said. “Hosting the NATO Summit is a tremendous opportunity to showcase Chicago to the world and the world to Chicago and we are proud to host the 50 heads of state, foreign and defense ministers from the NATO and ISAF countries in our great city May 19-21.”
As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, Emanuel learned of the decision to move the G8 summit when a White House aide informed a mayoral aide Monday morning. The mayor was surprised by the call, but Emanuel’s office did not consider the decision to be a slap in the face.
Others said the White House move Monday is a black eye for the Emanuel administration.
“Rahm Emanuel has mud on his face, and deservedly so,” protest organizer Andy Thayer said at a small “victory” rally held by OccupyChicago Thursday evening on Daley Plaza.
Terrorism authority Tom Mockaitis of DePaul University was surprised by the switch but says it could be related to tensions heating up in the Middle East and concerns about how protesters might respond.
“On the other hand, they may have looked at Chicago and said we’re not confident you can provide the security without it being sufficiently undisruptive of the proceedings,” Mockaitis said.
Security plans for the NATO summit were moving ahead. Six of the eight world leaders who will be attending the G8 summit will still be coming to Chicago afterward for the NATO summit.
A White House spokesperson told CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman that Obama began contemplating the move to Camp David a couple weeks ago and consulted Emanuel about it.
The G8 and NATO summits had been expected to draw thousands of protesters to Chicago.
Chicago Police Department spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said moving the G8 summit to Camp David would not change security plans for the NATO summit.
“This doesn’t change the planning or preparation of the Chicago Police Department. Our preparation and priorities remain the same — ensuring the public safety of our communities throughout the city, those participating in the summit as attendees as well as protecting the First Amendment rights of those who wish to exercise them,” Stratton said.
Now organizers of demonstrations plan to focus their protests against NATO, and they expect most protesters will be from the Chicago area.
Protest organizer Joe Iosbaker told CBS 2’s Mike Parker the decision to move the G8 summit to Camp David would not stop protesters from demonstrating in Chicago during the NATO summit to voice their opposition to the war in Afghanistan and other conflicts around the world.
“No one ever talks about the violence that’s really happening in the world today, which is the NATO-sponsored wars. And our government, of course, is the largest contributor to that,” he said. “You know, 50,000 people died in Libya and NATO says that’s a model for regime change in the Middle East. And the Afghan war, 10 years, it’s our longest war. That’s NATO’s war.”
Iosbaker said banners that protesters plan to carry during the NATO summit will still carry a message about the need to focus on jobs, housing, healthcare, the environment, and education — not war.
Evelyn DeHais, with Occupy Chicago, said the group has mixed emotions about the decision, but she said it’s a statement that the movement is making a difference.
“Clearly, Occupy is having a huge impact on the decision-making at the highest levels of federal government,” she said.
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DeHais said they were definitely surprised by the move.
“The move signifies that the government and … these people who are the representatives of the 1 percent are afraid of the people’s voices that will be gathered here in Chicago,” DeHais said.
Although the G8 summit has moved to Camp David, Occupy Chicago’s strategy remains the same, according to DeHais. Thousands of protestors are still planning to have a presence at the NATO Summit on May 20 and May 21.
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Thayer, a spokesman for the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda, said the decision to move the G8 summit to Camp David will save Chicago taxpayers millions. He said he thinks the $50 million security cost estimate was a low-ball figure.