Police gear up for battle ahead of Nato summit in Chicago

Arrests made as city prepares for thousands of activists expected to target high-profile event

Chicago is bracing itself for violence this weekend, when the leaders of Nato will arrive for a high-profile summit on the shores of Lake Michigan.

As many as 10,000 protesters are expected to descend on Chicago, President Barack Obama's home city, for the event. And the city police department – which, unlike in New York or Washington, is unused to managing security for such high-profile global gatherings, and has been preparing for the event for more than a year – is now readying itself for trouble.

New riot gear has been purchased, including "sound canons" that emit noises intolerable to the human ear, and armour for the police horses. About 2,000 active-service military as well as soldiers of the National Guard are on hand to help the police department. The Secret Service is in charge of protecting the summit site itself encircled already yesterday by steel barricades.

Protesters began arriving in the city from across the US yesterday, representing a variety of interests from anarchists to anti-globalisation agitators. Above all, adherents of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which hopes to get a fillip out of the Nato weekend after a winter that has seen its media profile wane, have vowed to turn out in force.

For Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and former White House chief of staff, the event offers peril and promise in equal parts.

Winning the right to host the summit, to be attended by the leaders of all 28 Nato countries and nearly two dozen other partner countries, must have made sense to Mr Emanuel. Altogether about 18,000 delegates, observers and journalists will descend into its streets and avenues, all paying for Chicago pizza, cars and hotels. If Chicago thinks it ranks as a global city, here is its moment to glisten.

The risks, of course, have to do with the parallel protests that spring up at gathering of government leaders nowadays. Chicago has history here, going back to the Iraq protests in 2003 which led to the arrest of about 900 demonstrators and even the 1968 Democratic Convention which is remembered only for the violent clashes between police and anti-Vietnam protesters that lasted for days – the "Battle of Chicago". That, the authorities have determined, must not be allowed to happen this time.

By way of dress rehearsal, the police have already responded to two demonstrations this week, one on Monday at the headquarters of the President Barack Obama re-election effort and another on Tuesday outside the city's main immigration court. Handfuls of arrests were made at each.

While a march is planned for tomorrow ahead of the leaders coming – a companion G8 summit for Saturday that was to have been in Chicago was relocated by President Obama to Camp David in Maryland – the big day promises to be Sunday when Occupy, which has chartered scores of buses to bring supporters from cities as far away as New York and Philadelphia, hopes to stage its biggest demonstration in months.

Whether Sunday ends with just littered streets or with broken windows or even bones will depend on both the police and the protesters.

"What law enforcement is doing, and rightly so, is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst," said Jeffrey Kramer, of private security consultancy Kroll. "There are those who are not going to be content with holding a sign."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk