Last week, residents of a Chicago apartment complex were advised they might want to leave ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20. Their building is near the epicenter of planned protests, and the building's manager thought they could be put in danger. It seems that wasn't a fluke: according to a new report of a leaked email, the Red Cross is prepping for possible violence, too.
(Related: Why Were Low-Flying Military Choppers Darting Between Chicago Skyscrapers?)
Local station CBS 2 obtained a copy of the email sent to volunteers in the Milwaukee, WI, area asking them to be ready to assist.
That email said the NATO summit “may create unrest or another national security incident. The American Red Cross in southeastern Wisconsin has been asked to place a number of shelters on standby in the event of evacuation of Chicago.”
But here's where things start getting really interesting: no one is fessing up to telling officials to prep for such action, and instead there's a lot of finger-pointing. CBS 2 explains:
According to a chapter spokesperson, the evacuation plan is not theirs alone.
“Our direction has come from the City of Chicago and the Secret Service,” she said.
Officials at Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication said the directive did not come from them.
The U.S. Secret Service did not return calls for comment.
But that's not all. CBS 2 has also received reports that a "heavily armed security team will start making a very public appearance around federal buildings in the Loop this week." Officials and other sources, however, denied those reports.
Those reports might be based on the federal government's decision to create a "red zone" to protect federal buildings. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that such a zone would include armed security forces on patrol. The Sun-Times explains:
The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that the plan for “Operation Red Zone” kicks into high gear next week to protect a vast area in the Loop where thousands of federal employees and dozens of government offices are located.
The Federal Protective Service will deploy additional personnel beginning May 1 [May Day], bringing in more people from out of town and outfitting them in “battle dress uniform.” They will be carrying “non-lethal” long guns — bean bag weapons — in a show of force that at the same time will allow people to move in and out of the zone freely, federal employees were told.
Of course those involved with the protest are trying to downplay the news. One SEIU member, who according to the news outlet is training protesters, compared the reports to "Y2K" and said people will eventually say it's "not a big deal."
Try telling that to Chicago resident Brad Klein: "I feel a little bit unsafe, just a bit more than a little bit. It doesn’t make me feel like I want to be in the city during the NATO conference.”