A Chicago Police officer tells a protester to get on the sidewalk at Wacker and Jackson during a rally Tuesday. | John H. White~Sun-Times
Updated: June 17, 2012 8:23AM
The big event is finally within sight. World leaders are now just days from converging on Chicago for the NATO Summit. Plans are in place for their care, feeding and security. Protesters have received their approved routes and now even a sound system.
And while I would not presume to speak for all of you fine readers, I’m sure many of you will at least appreciate the sentiment when I say:
Let’s just get it over with.
I mean, really, is there anybody from Chicago who’s actually looking forward to this with any enthusiasm outside of some swells who get the chance to rub shoulders with European honchos and maybe some elements of the protest community who see the opportunity of a lifetime to call attention to their cause — or themselves?
By this time next week, it will be finished. If we’re lucky, there will be no ill after-effects. That may be as good as it’s going to get.
If those world leaders use the opportunity to take some small step to further the cause of peace, that’s great.
And if some foreign head of state or journalist goes home with a fond feeling for Chicago that in the future leads to some unforeseen benefit to the city and its people in return, then so much the better. But don’t expect us to believe all the talk about a huge economic windfall for Chicago from the summit itself.
No, I’ve never spoken up against Chicago hosting NATO, and I’m not doing that now either.
If they were going to hold the summit somewhere, Chicago was as good a location as any.
As Chicagoans, we’re always delighted to show off the city, whether “global” in the eyes of others or not. And if there are going to be some inconveniences involved in being proper hosts, we’re more than willing to do our part to make it work.
If — in the name of world peace — it requires Metra riders stashing their backpacks and brown-bag lunches and motorists finding new routes to get to work for a day or two, we can do that.
We can reconfigure our work schedules and change clothes to blend with the crowd and any other silly thing that somebody believes will make the weekend a success.
We can even swallow the fact that hosting the summit may serve above all else to elevate Mayor Rahm Emanuel onto the world stage, so long as he understands that if anything major goes wrong, it’s on him. This is his show. Nobody here was consulted. We’re just the backdrop.
It’s the part about what could go wrong that has us all curious — with curiosity far surpassing enthusiasm as the reigning sentiment about the week that lies ahead. None of us really know what to expect.
We don’t want to be rubes and get all worked up about perceived threats that may be commonplace in cities that routinely host visiting dignitaries, and we don’t want officialdom using those fears to quash peaceful dissent.
But we can’t help noticing that these international confabs have a way of attracting trouble. It’s all there on video.
Even the protesters get angry with the press for dwelling on the possibility of violent encounters.
At a news conference Tuesday explaining the philosophy behind their planned Sunday demonstration, protest groups spoke about their desire for a “family-friendly” march but shrugged off the possibility of street violence as inconsequential compared to the violence waged by the NATO allies in war zones.
“I think any discussion of violence [that focuses on] what happens here in Chicago totally misses the boat,” said protest organizer Andy Thayer.
If there is violence in Chicago, that will be the boat.