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Obama Moves G-8 Summit from Chicago to Secluded Camp David

- Common Dreams staff

The Obama White House announced Monday evening that it was moving the May annual summit meeting of the Group of 8 (G-8) industrialized nations from Chicago to the secluded Presidential compound at Camp David, Maryland.

Chicago The gathering of NATO allies and the International Security Assistance Force will go on in Chicago as planned in mid-May. The two summits had been scheduled for Chicago during the same weekend, May 18-21. Mayor Rahm Emanuel had personally lobbied Obama, his old boss, to host both summits. It would have been the first time since 1977 in London that the two organizations held meetings in the same city at the same time.

Protest organizers say that if the move was intended to slow them down, that wouldn't happen. “The main thing is, the protests will go forward,” said anti-war protest leader Andy Thayer. “We believe that NATO is, frankly, the de facto military arm of G-8 and anybody who’s upset with G-8 should be upset with NATO.”

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The Chicago Tribune reports:

After the initial surprise over word from the White House today that the May G-8 summit has been moved to Camp David, Chicago officials and protest organizers quickly turned to speculation of how that would affect the NATO meeting that is still planned for that weekend in the city.

World leaders are still expected for the May 20-21 NATO gathering, including most of the Group of Eight leaders who will meet in Camp David earlier that weekend, officials said. The head of Chicago's host committee for the summits sought to focus on that in comments today.

“I’m sure it was a decision that was not made lightly,” said Lori Healey, executive director of the Chicago G-8/NATO host committee. When asked if she had knowledge of the cancellation prior to Monday, she said she did not.

“Obviously, the White House doesn’t consult with the host committee,” she said. “I understand the reasons. There are critical issues that the White House wants to discuss in a more intimate setting. That’s the situation.” [...]

“They moved them to avoid us. The G-8 leaders were going to be the targets of the largest protest in the United States against their agenda. They decided, let’s move them someplace where it will be much harder for crowds to assemble."
-Joe Iosbaker, Chicago G-8 protest organizer
Early word from protest organizers was that if the move was intended to slow them down, that wouldn't happen.

“The main thing is, the protests will go forward,” said anti-war protest leader Andy Thayer. “We believe that NATO is, frankly, the de facto military arm of G-8 and anybody who’s upset with G-8 should be upset with NATO.”

Because G-8 is being moved to a remote, highly secure location, Thayer said Chicago will still be a magnet for large demonstrations.

“I believe that people will very much focus on Chicago. So much organization has already gone into this,” he said, adding that groups will tinker with their demonstration plans rather than abandon them. “We’re going to have a quick consultation to see whether we need to move our demonstration from the 19th to the 20th.”

Harvey Grossman, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said he imagines there will less protest interest now that G-8 has been removed from the weekend of summits.

“Some of the primary concerns people have have been taken off the plate,” Grossman said. “People wanted to reach out to that audience. They wanted to show their level of dissent to the economic policies. It’s a disappointment in terms of the ability to engage.” [...]

Protesters sought to claim a share of credit for the move.

“They moved them to avoid us,” said Joe Iosbaker, a protest organizer. “The G-8 leaders were going to be the targets of the largest protest in the United States against their agenda. They decided, let’s move them someplace where it will be much harder for crowds to assemble.”

Iosbaker called the move a victory for protesters.

“We’re still marching, whether we move the day to be there during the actual (NATO) summit,” Iosbaker said.

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The New York Times reports:

President Obama has boasted for months about hosting the annual summit of the Group of 8 industrialized nations this May in his hometown of Chicago, but on Monday, the White House without explanation announced a shift to the secluded setting of the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

Administration officials and associates, speaking only on the condition of anonymity, said the president in recent weeks began discussing the idea of a more intimate setting for the world leaders — both to ease their communications and to cut down on the security concerns and traffic tie-ups of a big-city summit. Also, several noted, Vladimir V. Putin, a harsh critic of the United States who returns to the presidency of Russia after his election on Sunday, will be among the attendees. [...]

Still, the change of location was unusual given the months-long lead time that such events require for preparation.

Administration officials and others denied that the prospect of the anti-globalization protests common to such gatherings was a factor in the decision to change locations. After the Group of 8 summit, the separate summit of 28 NATO countries and Russia will go on as planned in Chicago, where leaders will discuss the future of the Atlantic alliance and specifically the coalition’s exit from Afghanistan by 2014 and the size and makeup of any residual force there.

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Satellite image of the secluded Presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland (click for larger image)

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