Nato 2012 Summit: As leaders gather, Chicago stays on edge

Fears that demonstrations could turn violent have put the city on edge.


Huma Imtiaz May 20, 2012

CHICAGO:


In preparation for hosting over 40 heads of state, Chicago has turned into a police state this weekend.


As the Nato Summit 2012 begins today (Sunday) in President Barack Obama’s hometown, helicopters hover constantly overhead and police and Secret Service personnel are out in full force.

While the Secret Service and the Chicago Police Department declined to comment on specific security measures, McCormick Place, the venue for the summit, resembles a fortress.

Media persons are being ferried via a shuttle to the venue, and cannot leave through any other exit.

At the massive media centre, journalists from around the world are pouring in for the summit that is being billed as a monumental step in the post-2001 history of Afghanistan.

Chicago is also on high alert for protests. Fears that demonstrations could turn violent have put the city on edge. Several street protests held so far this week have been peaceful, and most of the 14 people already arrested were engaged in acts of civil disobedience such as refusing to leave the building housing President Obama’s campaign headquarters.

Three protesters face terror charges

Three anti-war campaigners suspected of planning to throw Molotov cocktails during protests in Chicago face terrorism charges, their lawyers said on Saturday.

The three men charged were identified in the Sun-Times report as Brian Church, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, New Hampshire; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Florida. They were among nine activists arrested after armed police broke down the door to a house in Chicago on Wednesday, the National Lawyers Guild said.

The raid came after the men posted a video online showing how they were pulled over while driving downtown and questioned about their protest plans, the guild said.

Planned protests

On Sunday, day one of the Nato Summit, anti-war protesters will be marching from Grant Park to McCormick Place. The Chicago Socialists Association, in a statement on their website, stated their mission: “While the bureaucrats and leaders of the world’s military-industrial complex plan their strategies of war and occupation, we must make our voices heard in the streets. We demand an end to the occupation of Afghanistan, which generates one atrocity after another, and the ongoing military actions in Iraq and elsewhere.”

Amnesty International is also advertising their Afghan women summit, taking place simultaneously at the time of the Nato summit. On Sunday, the Afghan Women Summit will release a letter to the US and Afghan Presidents to “urge them to develop a comprehensive plan to protect the rights of Afghan women.” (With additional input from AFP)

 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2012.

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