Heavy metal fencing now surrounds McCormick Place, where several world leaders will be meeting, and protective plywood is going up at several South Loop businesses. Jeff Goldblatt reports.
Security precautions were becoming more visible, in the form of fencing and plywood, in the days leading up to the NATO Summit in Chicago.
The sidewalks surrounding McCormick Place, where much of the official business will be taking place, began looking like a fortress overnight into Wednesday, as crews started assembling the anti-scale fencing, mandated by the Secret Service.
Palettes of fencing also turned up near Grant Park.
"Just as I was riding my bike up here, I was like, 'Here we go. Here come the fences,'" said South Loop resident Geomele Moya. "It makes me feel secure. It makes me feel the city has a plan. And I’m not intimidated by it (the fencing). I feel it’s a real exciting event for the city and they have a good idea of how to make sure things go smoothly."
Another passer-by, however, looked upon the mass of security equipment with scorn, saying it made her feel like she was on "lockdown."
But, she added: "For three days, I can live with it."
In some cases, it won't be metal fences protecting buildings, but plywood. BB Board Up covered the windows of Aniko Salon and Spa.
"All week. We're busy. We got accounts set up all week." said supervisor Dennis Byrd.
The salon, a South Loop mainstay in the 1100 block of South Wabash, won't be open for business during the summit.
"We chose to shut down in the best interest of the safety of our guest and employees," said owner Sally Fernandez. "Maybe nothing will happen, and that would be terrific, but we just wanted to be cautious."
J.C. Restoration Inc. signed work agreements with roughly 40 downtown buildings to re-secure and board up windows shattered by protesters.
"The commercial real estate community downtown is definitely fearful of what could happen" said client advocate Mike Collins.
The company pre-staged supplies and manpower, a luxury Collins said he doesn't typically get.
"Usually when these catastrophes happen where multiple buildings are calling on our services all the same time, it tends to be weather-related, so we have haven't been able to prepare to the extent we're able to prepare for this. So we feel very ready to take care of what may happen."
Elsewhere in the city, three Air Force helicopters were seen buzzing around Wednesday afternoon, and on the lake, U.S. Coast Guard personnel arrived to help secure the waters near McCormick Place.
A few protests already popped up, but with no reported property damage aside from some overturned trash cans. In Bridgeport on Tuesday, demonstrators marched through the streets to protest what they say are "racially motivated killings and incarcerations ... deportations and daily harassment... [and] curbstomping dissent" by police officers.
Four people were arrested at another demonstration early Tuesday outside a downtown building that houses an immigration court. And on Monday, eight people were arrested following a demonstration outside President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election headquarters.
More protests are planned leading up to the summit.