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Joliet-area commuters wary of NATO protests

Commuters board Metrtrafor Chicago UniStatiWednesday May 16 2012 Joliet. Riders may only carry one bag not exceeding 15 inches square

Commuters board a Metra train for Chicago at Union Station Wednesday, May 16, 2012, in Joliet. Riders may only carry one bag not exceeding 15 inches square and 4 inches deep and liquids in personal effects must be less than 3 ounces from May 19 through May 21. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

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Area hotels booked, but not with NATO protesters

Joliet apparently doesn’t have much room in its inns for NATO protestors — or any out-of-towners, for that matter.

A check of Joliet’s major hotels found several that were already booked solid with people in town because of the Caterpillar strike.

The Machinists union, which represents about 780 workers at the Joliet-area Caterpillar facility, went on strike May 1 after a final proposal from the company that the union said included no set raises and even the potential for pay cuts in the next six years.

When asked whether the Wingate hotel had booked any NATO protest groups, Assistant Manager Tamme Crater laughed.

“Heck no. Do you think anyone’s going to get any rooms in Joliet with the Caterpillar (people) here?” she said.

‘Full with Caterpillar’

Rooms at the Fairfield Inn and Suites are sold out until May 21, said General Manager Ashlei Birch.

“That is my whole hotel,” she said. “I am full with Caterpillar.”

The Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center near Interstate 80 is packed with Caterpillar people, a manager said.

Susie, an employee of the Comfort Suites hotel who declined to give her last name, said they were putting up Caterpillar people as well as some in town for a paintball tournament.

Several wedding parties managed to fill the Hampton Inn on I-80, a staffer said.

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Updated: June 29, 2012 8:56AM

JOLIET — Commuters hopping trains bound for Chicago at Union Station on Wednesday were bracing themselves for a city filled with protesters and police.

The upcoming NATO Summit on Sunday and Monday is expected to wreak havoc downtown this week as protesters use the international gathering as a platform to publicize their causes.

“It’s going to start today,” said Krzysztof Niechcial of Channahon as he boarded the 7:17 a.m. train for the city. “Today, tomorrow and Monday. I’m concerned about Monday.”

Niechcial works for a copy service in the city.

“My boss said there are clients and we’re open, so we have to go,” he said. “But I’m going to check the news on Sunday. Then I’m going to decide if I go or not. Everybody is scared.”


Renardo Wilson of Joliet said he’s more worried about potential anarchists who might be in the crowds than he is of protesters in general.

“I was told that we should be very cautious coming in, obviously, because of what could happen,” said Wilson, who works for an energy company.

John Meitz of Minooka doesn’t work in the city, but he was headed there Wednesday for a doctor’s appointment. He said he was prepared for trouble.

“I worry about it,” he said. “They already said on the news this morning that there was going to be something. You’ve got to definitely be worried about it.”

Hope Grace of Joliet is concerned about Monday in particular because Metra is restricting passengers to one 15-by-4 inch bag on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

“We’re going to be open, but they’re supposed to make accommodations for us,” said Grace, who works for a law firm. “I asked them about bringing in lunches and food because I can’t bring this purse. It’s too big. I’m hoping I can fit everything in one little bag.”

Grace said she wasn’t too worried about violence until she heard protesters were causing trouble on Tuesday in the Bridgeport neighborhood.

“They were throwing rocks at people in homes,” she said. “I don’t know how it’s going to be down there, so we’ll see.”

Working from home

Terry Broderick of Joliet worked from home Tuesday and planned to do so on Friday and Monday, too. But he was girding for trouble on Wednesday as he headed into the city.

“We’ve been told to just be prepared,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

Broderick said the financial institution he works for is at LaSalle and Adams streets and the building he’s in is at the “epicenter” of where trouble could occur.

“They’re shutting down two of the three entrances,” he said.

He said he was told to report anything suspicious to police.

Dave Wilson of Joliet also planned to work from home on Monday. Wilson, who works for an insurance company, wasn’t too worried about his trip to work the rest of this week and he hadn’t seen any signs of trouble through Tuesday.

“Just an amplified police presence,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything that bothered me or created concerns.”

Ambar Campos of Joliet works for the Apparel Industry Board, which will be closed on Friday and Monday.

“My boss commutes in from Highland Park, so it wouldn’t make any sense for her to come in,” Campos said. “We’re hoping it will be OK today. I’m not that worried. I think most of it is going to happen on Friday.”

Because the apparel board is in the process of moving, Campos said she doesn’t have to work from home on Monday and Friday, so she gets a four-day weekend.

“I’m going to be home with my baby,” she said.

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