Activity continues to grow surrounding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit taking place here in Chicago this weekend and into early next week. From the Chicago Tribune this afternoon:
The first rally of the NATO protest weekend went off peacefully but groups of protesters conducted impromptu marches afterward on downtown streets that Chicago police tried to contain.
The two groups of protesters that had been marching through the Loop converged at Michigan Avenue shortly before 3 p.m.
Police, who had allowed the groups to wander through Loop streets largely unrestricted, stopped them halfway across the Michigan Avenue bridge, not allowing them to go further north.
On the bridge, one protester in a black shirt and Mohawk jumped up and pulled down a NATO banner on the bridge. Police officers quickly surrounded him, put him on the ground, and handcuffed him. One police officer appeared to strike her head on the bridge during the incident. Another protester obtained a police officer’s baton and threw it across the bridge…
Loop workers watched the impromptu march from their offices windows as the downtown streets seemed devoid of the typical tourist traffic often found in Chicago on warm Friday afternoons.
Drivers became impatient, however, as demonstrators snarled traffic by walking among cars and bringing the streets to a standstill.
The rally was far from the angry, violent protests seen at other gatherings of world leaders…
While I’d like to think the summit will remain that way, significant threats to law and order could come from the “Black Bloc” and terrorists. So what exactly is the Black Bloc? From Phil Rogers on the website of Chicago NBC affiliate Channel 5 this past Tuesday:
As Chicago prepares for the NATO Summit this weekend, police in other cities, and even some veteran demonstrators are offering some advice: “beware of the black bloc”.
Black Bloc demonstrators are self-styled anarchists who appear at large demonstrations, often at world summits, and are known for inciting violence.
From Reuters’ Andrew Stern on MSNBC.com that same day:
The main risk, security experts said, is that so-called “BlackBloc” anarchists will wreak havoc.
A recent tweet posted on the Twitter site of #blackbloc, a shadowy anarchist group, said: “#blackbloc comrades, keep a low profile till u are forced 2 act. We do no 1 any good in jail all day.”
If recent reports shared on an unofficial Chicago Police Department blog are to be believed, Black Bloc demonstrators will make their presence known in the Windy City in the coming days. From Second City Cop yesterday morning:
Has anyone been checking the Greyhound Station lately? Because our network people who are monitoring the subversives relate the following:
• According to their counting, 700 members of “anonymous” are arriving from the East Coast;
• 1200 are arriving from the West Coast;
• upwards of 3300 members of the “black bloc” and associated groups are coming from Canada and Seattle;
All of this prior to Friday. Is there a bit of bravado and exaggeration in those numbers? Undoubtedly. But the ones that do show up are going to be the truly dedicated assholes just itching to disrupt, damage and destroy.
View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.
And then there’s the threat of terrorism. Andrew Stern wrote in a piece on the Reuters website last night:
The FBI said on Thursday there was “absolutely no indication” of a terror attack threat in Chicago, although the city was considered a potential target even before President Barack Obama and other leaders meet for this weekend’s NATO summit.
FBI agent Ross Rice said the agency will be on heightened alert in Chicago, with extra agents brought in to react if its intelligence network sniffs out a plot. The FBI has agents in 70 countries, gathering intelligence.
“Several international terrorist groups have elevated Chicago in their mind to their No. 1 target for terrorist attack,” Rice said in an interview at the U.S. government’s nerve center inside a non-descript suburban Chicago office complex. Reporters were asked to keep the location secret.
“But there’s absolutely no indication that we’ve developed that any group or organization has a plan afoot to disrupt the summit this week,” Rice said.
Jeff Coen also talked about the potential threat from terrorism during the NATO Summit and wrote on the Chicago Tribune website last Friday:
Experts agreed that although any pooling of world leaders presumably makes for a tempting target for the likes of al-Qaida and other networks, the city is probably not under any more serious threat than usual.
As I type this from Chicago’s northwest side late this afternoon- here’s hoping the experts are right.
“Thousands rally, hundreds then march.” Chicago Tribune. 18 May 2012. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/natosummit/chi-first-nato-weekend-rally-unfolds-at-daley-plaza-20120518,0,5210924.story). 18 May 2012.
Rogers, Phil. “Police, Peaceful Protesters: Beware the “Black Bloc” Channel 5 Chicago. 15 May 2012. (http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/chicago-nato-summit-protesters-black-bloc-151650715.html). 18 May 2012.
Stern, Andrew. “Chicago braces for violence at NATO summit.” Reuters. 15 May 2012. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47439309#.T7a8rVIUP8l). 18 May 2012.
SCC. “Those Whom the Gods Would Destroy…” Second City Cop. 17 May 2012. (http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/2012/05/those-whom-gods-would-destroy.html). 18 May 2012.
Stern, Andrew. “’No indication’ of terror threat to Chicago NATO summit-FBI.” Reuters. 17 May 2012. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/17/nato-summit-security-idUSL1E8GHDSN20120517). 18 May 2012.
Coen, Jeff. “Terrorism at NATO summit viewed as improbable, not impossible.” Chicago Tribune. 11 May 2012. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-05-11/news/ct-met-nato-summit-terrorism-risk-0511-20120511_1_nato-summit-summit-events-nato-host-committee). 18 May 2012.
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