Chicago NATO Summit Protests

"Cloud Gate," also known as the Bean.  Millennium Park, Chicago.
 Chicago NATO Summit Protests
by Sue Basko

See also: Illinois Eavesdropping Law and Video at Protests
See also:  Arrest and Bail in Chicago/ Eavesdropping
WHAT’S THE NATO in Chicago all about?  See Wikipedia:

The NATO summit will be held in Chicago on May 20 - 21 at McCormick Place Convention Center.  The main Chicago protest is May 20 at noon starting in Grant Park at the Petrillo Bandshell, which is on Jackson Drive about one block east of Michigan Avenue, behind the Art Institute.  McCormick Place is situated along Lake Shore Drive, in an area south of the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and just west of Northerly Island, where there are concerts and a nature preserve.  Just south of McCormick Place is a bird and butterfly sanctuary.  McCormick Place is raised above street level and best accessible by vehicle from a ramp off Lake Shore Drive.   Therefore, attendees at the summit are unlikely to actually see the protests, but will more likely see portions of them on news reports.

Crown Fountain, Millennium Park 
Chicago is a beautiful city with wonderful formal parks downtown.  The downtown parks are Millennium Park and Grant Park.  Millennium Park has huge wondrous art, and a stunning Frank Gehry outdoor concert space.  CLICK FOR A SLIDE SHOW of Millennium Park.   DETAILED MAP OF MILLENNIUM PARK.

Grant Park has an outdoor concert space and many open fields. The parks host many music concerts and festivals, most of which are free and open to the public.  The main north-south  streets in the downtown area are Michigan Avenue and State Street.  Michigan Avenue has spectacular architecture, interesting shops and lots of places to eat at all price ranges.  The downtown area is home to many colleges and universities, including Columbia College, School of Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Depaul University, Roosevelt University, and many more.  Chicago has people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. Michigan Avenue is elegant and sophisticated.  Chicago people tend to be friendly, helpful, no-nonsense.  Chicago is a fantastic place to visit.     

Downtown Chicago from the Air:

Weather in May could be gorgeous.  There could also be torrential rains, winds or tornados, or thunderstorms.  In the downtown area in May, it is a good plan to dress in layers.  Umbrellas will probably not be allowed into protest areas, so you may want to bring a small rain poncho or wear a jacket that will work in the rain.   Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots or shoes are best.  Chicago winds preclude wearing any hat, unless it ties at the chin.       
Water Tower, Michigan Ave. and Chicago Avenues, Chicago
Update: A May 20 protest run by a coalition of groups begins with a rally in Grant Park by the Petrillo Bandshell (one block east of Michigan Avenue on Jackson Drive, behind the Art Institute)  and then will parade south to 23rd and Indiana, right near McCormick Place.  That is one heck of a long walk!!   This is expected to be a family-friendly event.    Wear good walking shoes because  that will be a fast 3 mile walk. The end location on this march is very odd.  It is not a very safe area and it is not very accessible to any el or subway or good bus line, but it is as close to being "within sight and sound" of McCormick Place as possible. Expect to walk a lot more to a bus or train afterwards.  A European contingent is expected to attend this particular protest.  It is hard to estimate what attendance will be, but it sounds like the preparations are being made with about 100,000 people in mind.   Events in Chicago easily accommodate a million people with no particular trouble.  If it is your first time in a big crowd, just relax, because people around you and the City are very experienced at it.

Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, Millennium Park, Chicago  

Transportation to May 20 Protests - how to get there

A consortium of several  groups has applied for  a permit for a big protest rally and parade/ march on Sunday, May 20, starting at noon at Daley Plaza.  The groups that get the permits are responsible for the protest and are required to insure it against any damages.   The group with the permit will run the protest and tell people what is or is not allowed.  The rally will be about 2 hours long and then will kick off into a march of 3 miles, that will take about  two hours.  It  will probably start and end very much on time.   

Protests in Chicago have a great energy.  The march usually moves very fast.  There is usually drumming and music.  People chant and clap and smile and wave.  People on the sidewalk or up in buildings will wave and clap.  People in cars honk.  The police usually march along and are very friendly.  I have never seen anyone at a Chicago protest wear a face mask, bandanna, gas mask, etc.    People treat the police with respect and no one calls them names.   Please don't bring any bad energy to Chicago.

Usually the parade will end in a location miles away from where it started, and there may be some speeches and music.    Chicago is big on labor unions, schoolteachers, and senior citizens.  At any rally, they will usually be featured speakers.    

View on Michigan Ave looking north over Chicago River.
Wrigley Building on left, Tribune Tower on right
Wherever the protests are held, expect security to be as high as if you were entering a rock music festival.  There is likely to be a screening to enter.  There is also likely to be a list of allowed items per person.  I have not yet seen any published rules, but items such as backpacks, bottles, or any hard, heavy, large, or metal items are not likely to be allowed.   Most Chicago streets are on camera.  Chicago police are always out in abundance at crowd events.  They will respect you if you respect them.  The US Secret Service and FBI are in charge of this event.  

In its downtown area, Chicago hosts many huge crowd events each year.  These include a blues fest, jazz fest, Lollapalooza, Taste of Chicago, fireworks, music concerts, air and water show, parades, and many other events.  Crowds at these events may range from about 80,000 for Lollapalooza to a million people for some of the major festival events.  President Obama’s inauguration party was held in Grant Park.  Major music acts play free concerts in Grant Park and Millennium Park.  All this goes off with usually no problems.  In Chicago, if you are on a downtown street or in a crowd, you are expected to conduct yourself as if you are walking down the hallway of an elegant building – with dignity and grace.
Wrigley Square, Millennium Park - quiet place to rest.   
Chicago Police know how to do crowd management.  There are many huge crowd events in Chicago each year.  The people of Chicago also know how to act in a crowd.  They have learned this skill set by attending huge outdoor events downtown.  Do not come to Chicago expecting to display any stupidity in a crowd, because it will not be tolerated by people or police.  In crowds in Chicago, there is no running or walking fast, no pushing, no throwing, no screaming.  If you seem cocky or obnoxious or threatening, expect to be stopped or kept out.  If you act disrespectfully to a police officer, expect it to be the last thing you do before being zip-tied.  Chicago is a no nonsense sort of City.  Chicago people have no tolerance for it.  Chicago runs huge events all the time and everyone knows the code of conduct expected in a crowd.  In Chicago, if you get arrested for acting a fool out in public, people will smile and thank the police as the paddy wagon takes you away.  Don’t expect any sympathy or anyone donating to your bail fund.

Michigan Avenue buildings. Old and new, short and tall.
All sound will be provided by the protest organizers obtaining the permit.  They are required to put all this on their applications.  Do not expect to bring your own. See the laws regarding sound at:

SIGNS to carry at protest:
Check beforehand as the date nears.  Security is going to be very tight.  The permit application originally required all big signs to be registered.  Some of those rules are loosening.  Exact rules are not yet known.  Do not expect to bring anything big or heavy. 

It is my understanding that much of the downtown area is going to be a “frozen zone” during the summit.    Exactly what the rules will be is not yet known to the public. I expect it will mean anyone entering is subject to screening.   

The Magic Pink Bicycle.
FLYING IN: Chicago has 2 airports – O’Hare and Midway.  Both have el trains that go downtown.  The “el” is what people in Chicago call the local CTA transit trains.  “El” means elevated.  An affordable plan is to fly Southwest Airlines to Midway and take the Orange Line CTA train downtown.  Southwest offers excellent prices online.  You don’t need a car if you stay in the downtown area and there is almost no place to park one anyway.  Paid parking can cost $30/per day.

Chicago has many taxi cabs that you can catch by hailing.  That means you stand by the curb and flag one down when you see it coming.  When I ride about 2 miles in Chicago traffic that is mostly going, it costs about $7 - $10,  plus tip. 

CTA El Platform, Library Stop in the Loop, Chicago  
How to Get to May 20 NATO protest at Petrillo Bandshell

CTA is Chicago Transit Authority.  There are many trains and busses.  There are trains direct from Midway and O’Hare Airports to downtown.  To ride the  CTA, you have to buy a fare card at a train station.  You get two transfers per trip.  For example, bus, train, bus is one trip,  if completed in a 2-hour span.  You can also go into a grocery or Walgreen’s and buy a pass for unlimited rides for one, three, seven or thirty days.  If you are in Chicago for a weekend, the 3-day pass at $14 is a great bargain.

Water Tower Park, Michigan Avenue just north of Chicago Avenue. 



UPDATE: This hostel has group rates and is in a great location downtown close to everything: (UPDATE - SORRY THEY ARE NOW BOOKED SOLID!)

There is no camping space in Chicago. (there are a few churches with camping planned, please contact the CANG8 housing board.)  I wish the City would designate some park space for camping during the summit.  So far, this has not happened.  I think this should be a priority request, although to be real,  Chicago weather is often too rainy or windy for safe tent sleeping.   Maybe you can stay with a Chicago friend?  If not, there are hundreds of hotels at all price ranges.  Prices on the low end are about $130 per night on up.  Some places include a nice breakfast.  You can often find good deals online.  Be careful when buying online because hotels that are listed as “Chicago” may be 10 – 60 miles from downtown.  Ideally, you want to stay in the area bounded by Chicago Avenue on the North (or as far north as Division Street), Congress Parkway on the South, Lake Michigan to the East, and LaSalle Street to the West.  If you stay in this area, there will be no need for a car, you will find many wonderful things to see and do, and there are many places to eat at all price ranges.    

These are not likely to be allowed during the summit in the frozen zone.  For more info on protest in Chicago see: Where You Can Protest in Chicago and How

It is illegal to mark with any of these on the street, in a park, or on transit.  It is illegal to possess paint or thick markers in public with intent to mark.  Just don’t bring any of this.  If you need to make a sign, do it wherever you are staying.  Don’t bring a thick marker to a protest, because possession will subject you to arrest.

Chicago Police on horses.
Horses are regularly used by police downtown and at events.
Rules have not yet been stated, but my guess is filming in the frozen zones will be limited to those with official Chicago press passes.  No official word on this yet, but that is my educated guess.  It is possible small or phone cameras may be allowed in.
Chicago has many odd laws.  You can see some of them at:

Marilyn Monroe sculpture on Michigan Avenue just north of the river .
People love taking pictures here.