G8 summit bails on Chicago
White House moves meeting to Maryland’s Camp David; NATO summit still happening at McCormick Place
03/05/2012 6:25 PM
The G8 summit, a meeting between eight leaders of the free world, won’t be held in Chicago this May, President Obama announced Monday afternoon.
The surprise decision will move the G8, which was scheduled for May 18 and 19, from McCormick Place to Maryland’s secluded Camp David. The NATO summit, which was scheduled to immediately follow the G8, will still take place at the convention center on May 20 and 21.
A statement from Obama’s press secretary implied that the decision was made to avoid the hubbub and protests that were quickly piling up for the Chicago summit.
“To facilitate a free-flowing discussion with our close G8 partners, the President is inviting his fellow G8 leaders to Camp David,” the statement read. “The President will then welcome NATO allies and partners to his hometown of Chicago for the NATO summit ... which will be the premier opportunity this year for the President to continue his efforts to strengthen NATO.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel had repeatedly touted the summits as something the city was well-equipped to handle, despite talk of massive protests from the Occupy movement and other groups. In a statement released Monday afternoon, he gave no hints on why the decision was made. Instead, he shifted the emphasis towards NATO.
“We wish President Obama and the other leaders well at the G8 meeting at Camp David and look forward to hosting the NATO summit in Chicago,” Emanuel said in an emailed statement. “Hosting the NATO summit is a tremendous opportunity to showcase Chicago to the world and the world to Chicago and we are proud to host the 50 heads of state, foreign and defense ministers from the NATO and ISAF countries in our great city May 19-21.”
Emanuel had insisted the city was ready for the summits. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, about 8,400 police officers have been trained for crowd control.
However, many protestors were expected to descend upon the city for the summits, particularly the Occupy movement. On Twitter Monday, representatives from the group chided officials for moving the summit to a secluded location.
“G8 might not be in Chicago anymore but let's be clear. They didn't give us a chance to lose or win. They forfeit [sic] before it began,” Occupy Chicago tweeted.
Nevertheless, a celebration rally was planned for Daley Plaza at 9 p.m. Monday night.
Gail Rutkowski, head of the Greater South Loop Association, said the G8 summit’s departure gave her a sense of relief.
“We had been advised by the Chicago police to leave the neighborhood, and it was going to be so terrible, and congested and crowded and there would be all kinds of closures,” she said. “I think with the protests and the unknowns that surrounded the whole event, there was concern from people in our own neighborhood. We were trying to figure out if we were going to have trouble accessing our own homes.”
Donna Adams, owner of Donna’s Cafe at 1255 S. State St., said that while the cancellation would hurt some South Loop businesses’ hopes for income, she wasn’t sure it would affect her too much either way.
“That’s going to put a crimp in some business owners plans,” she said. “There were a lot of people looking to make money off it.”
With the NATO summit still scheduled, she expects some folks on the streets. As a former cop as well as a business owner, she’s of two minds — keeping her small business thriving vs. protecting her assets.
“I still feel the same way. If there’s gonna be a problem, I’m prepared to deal with any problem, but I think they’ll probably head farther downtown,” she said. “Lord knows I could use the business, but not to the detriment of me and my property or the detriment of someone else’s property. If I go around handing out flyers, then you think we’re the corporate bad guys. It’s kind of like, if you don’t see me, you don’t know me.”