The U.S. Secret Service will let NATO summit protesters go ahead with their planned parade route – except they will push back where the route ends, according to the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda, or CANG8.
The decision is maybe the final chapter in a saga where CANG8 battled with Chicago and federal officials over conducting a lawful protest May 20, the first day of the two-day NATO summit.
According to CANG8 organizer Andy Thayer, the coalition won’t challenge the Secret Service’s demand in court. But Thayer fears protesters will not be within “sight and sound” of the summit.
CANG8 met with Secret Service representatives yesterday to go over whether protesters may interfere with a security perimeter the federal government sets up for so-called National Security Special Events.
The Secret Service told CANG8 that they must end their march with a rally at Cermak and Michigan avenues – not Cermak and Indiana avenues.
This puts CANG8 protesters two blocks away from the McCormick Place Convention Center, where the North American and European heads of state and diplomats that make up the NATO military alliance will enter.
“We were not pleased with that,” Thayer says, claiming that it is a “worldwide trend” where political leaders in democracies obscure protesters by citing security concerns.
Thayer accused the Barack Obama administration with hypocrisy, noting the U.S. State Department counsels newly formed Eastern European democracies to let public protests be visible.
But the Secret Service decision could have been more damaging to the protesters. Federal officials could have made a wider security perimeter. Also, officials met with CANG8 now, instead of announcing their security plans at the last moment.
CANG8 previously engaged in a back and forth with the Chicago Department of Transportation over a protest route, where CDOT denied a route that started at Daley Plaza, but – following a city administrative hearing – the two sides agreed on a route starting at the Petrillo band shell in Grant Park. The route, though, was contingent on federal approval.
CANG8 and city officials civilly worked through the detailed permit process, despite the coalition’s acrimony toward Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Thayer said that he opposes Emanuel “at every turn,” citing the mayor’s closing of six city mental health clinics and also support for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars during Emanuel’s time in Congress.
The city is making its own security plans. This includes bringing in 500-600 members of the Illinois National Guard, and 500 members of the Illinois state police – or about 40 percent of the state police force. The Chicago Police Department also plans to deputize police from the Chicago suburb of Rosemont to patrol the O’Hare International Airport, and shut down an O’Hare runaway, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Tribune reports that Chicago Transit Authority and Metra trains are scheduled to stay running during the summit.