The Whole World Is Watching...

Chicagoans have been on pins and needles this week as the city prepares to host the 2012 NATO Summit, where heads of state and diplomats from the organization's 28 member states will gather to discuss matters of foreign policy. The city very much remembers the scars left by the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and the Chicago Police Department, along with the military and the federal government, is taking every conceivable precaution to make sure that the event is not unduly disrupted by protesters. Popular opinion holds that the officials are way overreacting, and exaggerating the extent of the security threat, and I tended to be of that mindset as well. For one thing, Occupy Chicago has never garnered the same attention or strength as the New York and Oakland branches of the movement, and I can't recall a protest around here that has attracted a mass audience in my lifetime.

However, today, on the eve of the Summit, I did spot two groups of protesters; one was a small band of Veterans for Peace, roving through my neighborhood on the sidewalk, near my bus stop of all places, protesting U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. I have to question their decision to protest in Roger's Park, where there was nobody to see them but commuters on their way to work and students on their way to school -- certainly no media. The other was a larger group with a parade permit, marching down Clark Street around lunch time, and accompanied by about half as many cops as there were people in the parade. This group had a more general anti-NATO message, but they were much better organized, complete with witty chants. 

It will be interesting to see how the Summit plays out. Will the protests increase in strength and numbers, as feared by the police, or will they continue at the same relatively unimpressive level? As for me, I couldn't really care less about the whole NATO gathering, aside from the impact it's having on my commute to work. I'm glad not to work or live downtown while this is going on, as the unpredictable reroutes and street closures will undoubtedly create a traffic nightmare. For now, I'm content to watch it all unfold from the far North side, and remain geographically above the fray.

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