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Protesters: Is city admitting it lacks the cops to handle NATO summit?

Protesters hallway as Chicago City Council voted ordinances addressing security protest permits for upcoming NATO summit Chicago McCormick Place. File

Protesters in the hallway as the Chicago City Council voted on ordinances addressing security and protest permits for the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago at McCormick Place. File Photo. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 24, 2012 8:18AM

If Chicago lacks the police manpower to secure the NATO summit and a protest march to McCormick Place on the same day, City Hall has no business hosting world leaders, protesters argued Thursday.

After rejecting a city counterproposal they claim would have “ghettoized” their parade route to streets with “virtually no public visibility,” protesters formally appealed the decision by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration to reject a permit for a parade virtually identical to the one City Hall approved in January.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama shifted the G-8 summit from Chicago to Camp David. That prompted the protesters to file a new application for permission to shift their march from May 19 to May 20, same time, same route.

City Hall rejected the permit on grounds it does not have a “sufficient number of on-duty police officers” or traffic control aides to “police and protect” parade participants and spectators.

“If that was true, why did they sign up for this in the first place?” said Joe Iosbaker, a spokesman for the Coalition Against the NATO/G-8 War & Poverty Agenda.

Iosbaker claims the alleged shortage of police officers is an “excuse”— that City Hall is simply using boilerplate language in Emanuel’s watered-down “sit-down-and-shut-up” ordinances regulating protesters to deny the permit and stifle public dissent.

“What happened to the ranks of their police force between the middle of January and this week?” Iosbaker said.

“They have plenty of police officers. Not only do they have their own police. They’ve raised money and gotten [federal] money for additional security. They’re making plans to deputize [officers] from other places.”

Roderick Drew, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department, said in an email that the approval of the original permit application for a May 19th march “has not changed.”

But he said once the change was requested, “we were unable to reach an agreement and [protesters] will not accept the alternate route proposed by the City.”

Drew said “ the NATO Summit is significantly larger than the G8 Summit with over 50 heads of state and other high level dignitaries in attendance, therefore the traffic issues also grow in comparison to those of the G8 Summit attendees.

“It is not a matter of resources. There is a conflict with the date, time and location” of the revised request and “the movements for the NATO Summit attendees.”

In the city’s initial denial of the revised permit, officials argued that motorcades shuttling 5,000 summit attendees — including 50 heads of state — would create “significant traffic impediments which would be exacerbated by the proposed 2.64-mile parade route,” warning that there wasn’t enough manpower to police the summit and the protest while adequately covering the rest of the city.

The Department of Administrative Hearings is scheduled to hold a hearing on the protesters’ appeal at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at 400 W. Superior.

Pressed on why protesters rejected the city’s alternative route, Iosbaker said, “We had proposed — and the city had accepted — a reasonable route that would have taken us within sight and sound of McCormick Place [where the NATO summit will be held]. For them to be adding another half a mile is just another effort for them to make it harder for us to protest. This is another in this series of efforts by the city to stifle our efforts to have the largest protest possible.”

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