NATO’s (1%) left Chicago; we (99%) are recovering
While Rahm, David and Barack congratulate themselves over a successful Summit, the rest of us 99%-ers are recovering. I’m a born and bred Chicagoan still residing in the “land”, and the Rahm-bo version of the “we’re going to keep everyone safe” police state that came along with the Summit didn’t quite appeal to me, or to much of the populace.
While the 2012 NATO Summit was intended to provide a backdrop showcasing the foreign policy smarts of our current President (although it’s said France’s Hollande stole the show), the Summit proved to be a nightmare for the 99%-ers who are fueling what economy Chicago has left. The closing of the major museums affected tourism, and many businesses urged their employees to work from home Friday and Monday because of the ridiculous rules that Metra rail adhered to (no beverages, food, backpacks allowed on board-only one 15 x 15 carry-on) not to mention K-9 units at certain stations, when they weren’t closed, and the miles of roadways shut down over the Summit period.
Now what effect do you suppose this had on the businesses, and people who run them, whose livelihoods depend on the office workers for the $$ to be able to pay for rent and groceries. I’m sure the Four Seasons and The Peninsula made out very well, and Tru and Spiaggia had their restaurants humming through the early hours of the morning. But the lady who sells pizza from her small restaurant truck on Madison and LaSalle didn’t make out so well, since the Loop was a reported “ghost town” for four days. And the couple who own the dry cleaners/shoe shine in the Mercantile, the Loop restaurants that rely on the breakfast/luncheon crowds, their waiters who rely on tips….you get the picture.
According to the Mayor, Chicago has impressed its foreign guests, which in turn, will be a boon for tourism. We can just imagine Belgium’s secretary for international affairs tell his wife, “mon amie, this year we are not going for our vacation to San Tropez, we are going to Chicago.”
But for all the hype and hoopla, what bothered me most about this visit was, as I mentioned earlier, the “police state” syndrome that the City took on. Yes, I understand we hosted foreign heads of state, and it’s a dangerous world we live in. However, the police presence in Chicago and the measures taken, in relation to other cities who have hosted Summit-level events in the past, was in my not so humble opinion over the top, and showed how parochial this “major” city became to help Rahm ensure that absolutely nothing would mar or embarrass his former boss.
Looking at any of the photos seen during this Summit, and it appears there are 10 police officers for every protestor. The Chicago Police Dept. spent over $1 million dollars in riot equipment according to the City’s procurement website, including two expensive long-range acoustic device (LRAD) vehicles. And let’s not forget the five Blackhawk helos that were training over the city a month beforehand.
Not all protestors are violent. They have a right to peacefully assemble; our Constitution guarantees it. However, even those rights were curtailed by special edict passed by the City over the number of permits issued, as well as the venues used. While NATO was a success, the average citizen’s rights to work, to walk, to drive, to speak, were curtailed.
We miss you, Richie.