Full NATO freakout

Here in Chicago, we’ve vacuumed the cat hair off the couch and stashed the empty pizza boxes and beer cans out by the trash so the place looks presentable for this weekend’s NATO conference.

We’ve also taken a few precautions:

  • The street in front of my building has been blocked off for the weekend so it will be a little harder to break the windows of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Likewise, the alley next to my building. The clock outside the building has been wrapped in something protective (kevlar?). I walked by two other plazas at lunch today that were also blocked off.
  • The federal building and post office on Clark Street are ringed by parked Homeland Security SUVs.
  • The Coast Guard has a fleet of small, fast launches in the lake (I saw them being unloaded from trailers earlier this week at Burnham Harbor). It also has at least one sizable ship offshore.
  • There have been military helicopters overhead for days, and today the sound has been almost nonstop.
  • This morning, NORAD held an air drill for a couple of hours over the lakefront. There were supposed to be F-16s and a tanker, but I only saw the occasional helicopter. And yeah, NORAD? Relic of the Cold War? Apparently not as relicsome as I thought.
  • High steel fencing has gone up on the Lakefront Path north and south of the Museum Campus, and concrete barriers have been placed in at least two underpasses on the path.
  • Antennas have been popping up on things that didn’t have antennas before.
  • Police in both marked and unmarked cars have appeared in odd places along the lakefront. Sometimes just sitting there, looking east toward Michigan.
  • Lots more uniformed police downtown.
  • Near total disruption of public transit for anyone headed downtown, especially from the south. And street blockages, too.

Other than that, it’s business as usual around here, but with more weaponry.

I think I’ve seen more protesters on TV than I have on the streets. Last night I saw one group of mostly young people near the federal building carrying banners. This morning I saw a guy on a bike in a hoodie with a bandanna over his nose and mouth, but does that make him a protester? It could just as easily make him a lawyer, since many of us (including in my building) have been encouraged to “dress down” so as not to attract any kind of thump-the-one-percent attention. My pants have had a stain on the left leg (errant Chinese lunch) for a week now, so I’m not worried.

Near the Northwestern station this afternoon, I saw several ambulances parked along Canal Street, along with a few dragooned Enterprise rental vans (they had Fire Department signs in the back windows to identify them).

The NATO freakout has been successful enough that many people stayed away today. Traffic was light, there are far fewer people on the street than usual. And they don’t roll out the full fear zone until tonight. Which means Monday is the day that will really be a challenge for anyone coming to work, since the cloud of dementors isn’t scheduled to lift till sometime in the afternoon or evening.

The weather’s pleasant for either convention or confrontation: 82 degrees and slightly hazy, supposed to be nice tomorrow, showery Sunday and nice again Monday. My plans are for a peaceful weekend: Go to a local garden fair, get vegetables and plant them. Maybe grill something for dinner. But stay away from downtown, and find some backdoor way to get to work (or frontdoor way of just staying home) Monday.

Whether you’re here as part of NATO or to protest NATO, I wish you all a peaceful weekend, too. Welcome to town. Please treat the city kindly, we have to live in it after you leave.

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