So your brother's bound and gagged And they've chained him to a chair Won't you please come to Chicago just to sing In a land that's known as Freedom How can such a thing be fair Won't you please come to Chicago for the help that we can bring?
-Graham Nash "Chicago"
This May, Chicago will be host city for the 2012 NATO summit. It will mark the first time a NATO summit in the U.S. has been held outside Washington. Depending upon which source you reference, the three-day event will be met with either peaceful, family-friendly marches or will be a powder keg of potential violence.
In any case, given that this is an election year, and Chicago is seen as the hometown of President Obama, all eyes will be on the city, much as they were on election night, 2008, when President-elect Obama delivered his historic victory speech from Grant Park. Counter-NATO organizers are taking to social media sites to whip up support among their members and Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields estimates the number of protesters likely to convene in the city at upwards of 40,000. The first permits for protests during the summit have already been issued. So Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking extra precautions to ensure that the protests that DO occur are peaceful and any potential violent disruptions are headed off swiftly. The police force is undergoing riot baton training and ordering protective gear including over $190,000 for new state-of-the-art face shields.
With the potential for violent protests and strong reaction from law enforcement, there will surely be comparisons to Chicago's 1968 Democratic national convention, which was marked by violent clashes between antiwar protesters and then Mayor Richard J. Daley's police force. As the politician's convened, live televised images of bloody and beaten protesters being hauled off in paddy wagons tarnished both Daley's and Chicago's reputation in the years that followed.
However things play out this May in Chicago (and let's hope they remain peaceful), there are sure to be large crowds and strong opinions, which always makes for good sketching opportunities. I plan on being there with my drawing pad. If anyone cares to join in, drop me a line.