When I was a child I went to school in Paris, France for a semester. The kids at school asked me where I was from; I sat up straight and proudly said “Chicago!” My response was met with blank stares. They asked,
Is that near LA or New York?
Unfortunately, twenty years later my story still occurs around the world. This is one of the reasons why holding the NATO Summit in Chicago is an exciting opportunity for the city.
The Summit is scheduled to take place from Sunday, May 20—Monday, May 21, concluding around 2:00 p.m. The meeting will be held at McCormick Place.
The city is expecting 5,000—7,500 attendees including; 6,000 delegates as well as attendees from major non-governmental organizations such as the EU, the UN, and the World Bank and approximately 2,000 members of the foreign press.
The city is planning a myriad of events surrounding the Summit including a talk by Madeline Albright on Wednesday, May 2, Chicago’s annual Kids and Kites on Saturday, May 19, and Culinary Crossroads, a dine-around from Tuesday, May 1—Friday, May 25.
Naturally, with any large, unfamiliar event, citizens of Chicago, and, in this case, South Loopers in particular are eager to know how the impact of having so many foreign dignitaries in town will affect the logistics of everyday life. It’s frustrating for some to not know if, for example, their commute to work will be disrupted and especially to not know when that information will be available.
The city is working very closely with the Secret Service to plan the logistics of this event and inform citizens of any impact it may have on them. There are multiple ways to learn about updates as they are announced:
Preparedchicago.org Chicago Public and Private Partership (CP3) is a portal in which business owners and building managers can share information about their property with the city’s first responders to ensure efficient emergency management.
Hillardheintze.com – Hillard Heintze is the local security strategy firm coordinating the event. Visit their website for business specific security updates.
Notify Chicago – Sign up for the city’s service to receive phone calls, e-mails, and/or text messages about a variety of city alerts including; street closures, sports events, weather emergencies, and hazardous materials situations.
Chicagonato.org – This is the official website about the Summit. It has information about NATO, Chicago, events, and news, etc…
Questions can be directed to Info@chicagonato.org
The perimeter of the event has not yet been set. The goal is to keep it as close to McCormick Place as possible to make the lowest impact on the surrounding neighborhood. There will be a hard perimeter and a soft perimeter. The hard perimeter will be defensible and constructed of fences and barriers.
Businesses and residences that fall within the perimeter will be contacted before the summit and alerted of the impact they can expect and any special ingress and egress routes that may be in place.
Hosting the NATO summit is a great opportunity for local businesses to attract new customers and help showcase Chicago to the world. It is the goal of the security agencies to avoid hindering the regular operations of any business.
Another concern many neighbors have raised is the impact protesters may have on day-to-day life. There are two planned parades and two planned rallies as well as designated areas in which protesters will be allowed to assemble.
Chicago has long been a supporter of allowing citizens to practice their first amendment rights. And it has built systems to enable peaceful protests with minimal affect on non-participants. Just yesterday there were three large scale protests across the city and over the weekend the Occupy Movement had a Spring Kickoff including approximately 1,700 protesters. Personally, I didn’t know about any of these. Had I been near them I expect, like any other protest I have seen in Chicago, the sidewalk might have been a little crowded, but I could still walk by minding my own business. Chicago has shown in recent history that it is very good at keeping this balance.
There will be two small protests on Friday and two marches on Sunday. On Sunday the current estimate is of 5,000 people for one protest and 7,000 for another. Friday has an estimated 7,000 at this time. The Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda will rally on Sunday and then march from the Petrillo Music Shell to McCormick Place. The route will move partially through downtown and continue south on Michigan ending by McCormick Place. The city is still working out where and how the parade will disband.
The Iraqi Veterans Against the War announced on their website that they will meet on Sunday May 20 at 9:00 a.m. at Grant Park, South of the Lincoln Monument (E. Balbo Ave. and S. Columbus Dr.) for a rally followed by a march to McCormick Place.
There will also be rallies in support of and against NATO at McCormick Place.
Rolling street closures should be expected, however efforts are being made to create minimal impact on regular traffic. There will be enhanced public transportation. Some buses may be rerouted, but that information will be posted as it is made available; on the route stops, online, and can be found by calling 311.
With thousands of foreign representatives coming to visit our city for a weekend this May Chicago has a great opportunity to shine under the spotlight and show the world why we as residents all love this city. We have never had this many heads of state visit our city at one time. Making this a great opportunity for businesses to feel showcased and grow, as well as boosting our tourism and overall economy. Hopefully come June fewer people will be asked whether Chicago is near LA or NY!