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Protesters: Parts of I-55, Lake Shore Drive to be closed during NATO summit

The StevensExpressway.  |  File photo

The Stevenson Expressway. | File photo

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Updated: May 26, 2012 8:20AM

Portions of Lake Shore Drive and Interstate 55 will be closed to traffic during the May 20-21 NATO summit to accommodate a security perimeter imposed by the U.S. Secret Service to protect world leaders meeting at McCormick Place, protesters were told Tuesday.

Andy Thayer, a spokesman for the Coalition Against NATO-G-8, predicted that “tens of thousands” of people would be inconvenienced — from Friday through Monday of summit weekend — because of the restrictions described to protesters by Secret Service officials during a meeting at the Dirksen Federal Building.

According to Thayer, the restricted area will be bounded by 21st Street, 25th Street and Indiana and Lake Michigan. And Thayer claimed the northern boundary may be moved to Roosevelt Road because of NATO-related events at the museum campus.

In addition, Thayer said Cermak and 23rd would be open to pedestrians only between Indiana and Michigan. And McFetridge Drive will be the northern boundary of the security perimeter east of Lake Shore Drove.

The west building of McCormick Place will be shut down. The north building will be for the news media, with reporters transported through a dedicated busway. And the south building will be dedicated to the summit.

“Lake Shore Drive will be closed on Sunday and probably on Saturday from 31st to Roosevelt Road. I-55 will be closed from the Ryan all the way to the northern end. Tens of thousands of people will be inconvenienced,” Thayer said.

“As a result, we’ve made a decision to have the end of our [protest march] route one block short of where we got the permit. Instead of Cermak and Indiana, it’ll be Michigan and Cermak.”

Thayer said he is disappointed, but not surprised by the size of the security perimeter and its impact on the protest march.

“The First Amendment is supposed to guarantee the right to free speech within sight and sound of the location you’re protesting. This doesn’t really respect the First Amendment. It’s a sad indictment of the state of democracy in the United States,” he said.

“If you can’t truly live up to supporting the First Amendment and having the summit, you shouldn’t have the summit. No one in this town asked for the summit besides President Obama and Mayor Emanuel.”

Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie refused to confirm the boundaries outlined by Thayer.

“I’m not gonna discuss what happened in the meeting [with protesters]. We’re gonna stick to the two-to-four-week time frame to discuss what restrictions will be put in place,” Ogilvie said.

Last month, President Barack Obama shifted the G-8 summit from Chicago to Camp David. That prompted protesters to seek to shift their march from May 19 to May 20, same time, same route.

City Hall refused, saying it did not have a “sufficient number of on-duty police officers” or traffic control aides to “police and protect” participants and spectators. The city subsequently granted a permit that will allow the protesters to march on the outskirts of the Loop to McCormick Place.

The march was scheduled to begin at Petrillo band shell on May 20 — the opening day of the summit — and proceed west on Jackson, south on State, east on Harrison and south on Michigan Avenue to McCormick Place.

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