Countdown to NATO-Continued

5/20/12-Update:  It didn’t take long after our latest post for the Occupy protests to literally cross our front door. After finally dispersing off Cermak & Michigan following a stand-off w/ police, they were headed our way in droves, followed by a phalanx of police. (The photos don’t really do the crowds justice; they caught us by surprise and we missed a bit of the action.) Nonetheless, there was a sizable residual left from the standoff, and police came on foot, on bicycles & by the busloads (@ least three busloads). Once again things have died down w/out incident. If this is the worst it gets–for the rest of tonight & tomorrow–we can all feel relieved.

5/19/12-One day before: Business as usual—hardly. The neighborhoods just south of McCormick Place were eerily quiet this morning, even beyond weekend standards. More like a July 4th, where everyone went out of town. Virtually no pedestrian traffic & streets traveled only by a few cars.  Signs of normal weekend life—shopping, walking & browsing, running errands—weren’t evident until early afternoon. Residents of one Near  South community did, however, wake up to a new reality: during the overnight, barricades surrounding the community turned into a near-encampment …an occupied territory where private becomes public. Private streets become controlled access camps.

Oddly, in one area, one end of the community has been turned into a bivouac of police & security; 

the other end, a temporary camp of a small, but growing group of out-of-town protesters. We’re sandwiched somewhere in between.

 More companies board up along Michigan.

Newspapers today report on conspiracies to attack President Obama’s downtown headquarters, yet, even before reports, downtown residents & visitors clearly were moved to “lay low.” At Roosevelt Road & Michigan, usually a hotbed of daily activity, even by mid-day, crowds remained scarce.  The neighborhood Starbucks & Jewel food store, nearly always bustling, begged for a few customers. As everyone now knows, much of Lake Shore Drive near downtown is off limits. What will tomorrow bring?

Michigan Ave. at Roosevelt Road, Downtown Chicago5/20/12–Summit Day

–The day began extraordinarily tranquil and continued much the same throughout the afternoon.  By tranquil, we mean permeating an air of calm & stillness that, while welcome, leaves one w/ angst in anticipation for the unexpected. Nevertheless, that has now changed. As I write this, scheduled marches have completed and police are currently @ an impasse w/ a hard line of fewer than 100 protesters who refuse to leave the McCormick area. We’re no more than five blocks away, & all is still quasi-normal here, except for the drone of helicopters & planes. No real hint that just several blocks away, police are in a moderate-level confrontation with the hardest line of protesters. From what we’re hearing & seeing, there’s been little to no damage reported, but the evening’s not over & who knows what the night will bring. Nonetheless, it’s clear that all levels of police presence–Chicago police, IL State Police, Secret Service, & I would imagine Cook County Police, as well as the FBI–have prepared for everything they’re encountering. What’s also clear is that most “Occupiers” were intent to make a point about human rights & civic engagement, and having done so, they’ve retreated. The dichotomy between the two protester camps is palpable, but so goes democracy in America. Let’s all pray for the best. To this point, Chicago has shown itself well.

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