Chicago Continues Beefing Up 'Security' for NATO Summit While Protesters Still in Dark

ACLU, protesters still waiting for protest area information

In the lead-up to the NATO summit in Chicago from May 20 - 21, the city has acquired 500 troopers from the Illinois State Police as well as 600 Illinois National Guard troops for the summit and accompanying protests. What protesters still don't know is the location restrictions that the Secret Service will enforce on protest areas, prompting concern from the ACLU.


The Chicago Sun-Times reports today that City Hall sources gave the information on hundreds of additional Illinois State troopers on Friday, while the Illinois National Guard disclosed its information on hundreds of guards for support earlier this week.

The ACLU has been demanding information on security perimeters for the summit to ensure "effective exercise of First Amendment expressive activities."

While the Secret Service has said it would announce the perimeters two to four weeks ahead of the event, the ACLU believes that only two weeks notice would weaken the ability to have court challenges on the restrictions.

Chicago Police have already said they have a long-range acoustic device (LRAD) available for use during the protests.

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Chicago Sun-Times: 500 troopers may help handle NATO protesters

As many as 500 troopers from the Illinois State Police will assist the Chicago Police Department in handling thousands of protesters expected to descend on Chicago during the May 20-21 NATO summit, City Hall sources said Friday. [...]

Chicago Police Department spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said the size of the State Police contingent is "evolving, as is the attendance and type of delegations" attending the NATO summit. [...]

Earlier this week, the Illinois National Guard disclosed that as many as 600 of its troops would help move international delegations around the city during the summit.

The National Guard also revealed that it has scheduled an emergency response drill outside the city during summit weekend so even more of its troops can be summoned to Chicago in the event of largescale trouble. [...]

[Police Supt. Garry ] McCarthy once served as operations chief for the New York City Police Department, which has extensive experience in crowd control, civil unrest and protection of visiting dignitaries.

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ACLU: ACLU of Illinois calls on Secret Service to make public security plans for NATO summit by end of the day on Monday

Chicago - Seeking to protect the "effective exercise of First Amendment expressive activities" during the upcoming NATO meeting in Chicago, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois today asked the United States Secret Service to release its security plan for the area surrounding McCormick Place by the end of the day on Monday, April 23. Specifically, the ACLU asked the Secret Service to release specific details of the security perimeter and plan that it intends to maintain at McCormick Place during the NATO meeting.

The ACLU noted that McCormick Place currently operates under a federal court settlement agreement, from a 2003 ACLU of Illinois case, that regulates access to the facility by those wishing to engage in free expression during events at the facility. The agreement that resolved the ACLU case, Albrecht v. Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, mandates that at least one person be permitted at every entrance to McCormick Place in order to distribute leaflets and creates outdoor group expressive areas near McCormick Place where all forms of expressive activity is permitted.

The ACLU of Illinois letter, sent on Wednesday, April 18, notes that conversations with the Secret Service leads the ACLU to conclude that the security perimeter is likely to include the entrances and outdoor areas protected by the free speech areas and that persons not credentialed for the NATO meetings "will not be allowed to enter within the security perimeter, including groups and individuals seeking to engage in protected expressive activities, even if they are willing to go through the same security as the media."

"The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the operators of McCormick Place, made an agreement enforceable by the federal courts that they would provide access to those engaged in expressive activities to attendees of events at the facility," said Harvey Grossman, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois. "We need to know if the Authority and the Secret Service are planning to violate that agreement, their justifications for doing so and what alternatives for communication they are willing to provide to those seeking to engage NATO attendees." If the circumstances justify court intervention, we need to proceed swiftly to protect the First Amendment rights of demonstrators.

"It is time for the Secret Service to release their plan."

The ACLU letter also request information on any limitations on speech or association outside the security perimeter. Based on discussions with federal officials, it seems likely that large groups will be limited in their ability to gather even on the outside of the security perimeter. The ACLU specifically asks the Secret Service to specify where large groups will be allowed to assemble near McCormick.

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