NATO Summit: DePaul, Others Waiting on Security Plans from Secret Service, FBI
Bob Wachowski, DePaul University's director of public safety, said local police
and security officials won't know of the Secret Service's NATO security plans until one month
before the May 20-21 summits in Chicago. (Photo by Mike Reilley)
By Brianna Kelly
The Red Line Project
Posted: Tuesday, April. 3, 2012
DePaul University lacks official security plans for dealing with a number of situations that could potentially arise on its Loop campus in connection with the NATO summit May 20-21 in downtown Chicago, according to the university's Public Safety Department.
Because of the high-risk factors regarding international security, the university will not receive specific security details, including back-up plans, from the Secret Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation until at least four weeks prior to the NATO summit, said Bob Wachowski, the director of public safety.
However, public safety officials have been told by FBI contacts that there is no credible threat to Chicago at this time. DePaul University is committed to ensuring students’ safety during the NATO Summit, Wachowski said.
“People are first, the building and property are second,” he said.
The Public Safety Department employs about 70 full-time and part-time officers between the two campuses, but will add additional officers for increased security. According to Wachowski, he and his safety officers are “planning for the worst but hoping everything [will be] peachy.”
University officials have decided to close the Loop campus from Friday, May 18, to Monday, May 21, because of the heavy traffic of politicians and protesters in the city during NATO. An estimated 140 to 170 motorcades are expected to arrive daily to transport the North American and European dignitaries, Wachowski said.
The school also postponed its annual FEST celebration on the Lincoln Park campus to the week after the NATO summit and moved the College of Law's graduation from the Lyric Opera House fto the Rosemont Theater because of potential security and congestion that weekend.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the city will receive a $19 million grant to use for security for the NATO summit. The city is only the second in the U.S. to host the annual meeting of world leaders.
DePaul University officials have also been working closely with the Chicago Police Department in preparation for the NATO summit. They are also in communication with other colleges in the Loop, to address the unique challenges of being in an urban setting and ultimately to provide more security to all students in the downtown areas all year long.
Video: Wachowski talks about permits protestors must get in order to assemble in Grant Park and other areas of the city. (Video by Paul Tadalan)
On May 1, protesters will begin to inhabit Grant Park. They will attempt to camp out there within the weeks leading up to the summit, but according to Wachowski, the city will not allow it.
Anti-war activists who plan to protest during the summit are still discussing potential march routes with the City of Chicago. Officials have denied protesters’ request to begin at Daley Plaza, and instead offered an alternative route for the march to start at Grant Park.
DePaul University and public safety are also in support of students’ right to exercise their First Amendment rights by joining in the efforts of the protesters, as long as they adhere to the law and the university’s handbook.
“If everyone’s peaceful, no one will get hurt,” Wachowski said.
Last month, DePaul students organized a group called “Occupy DePaul” to protest against an increase in tuition. On March 1, members of Occupy Chicago joined the student protestors outside of 55 E. Jackson Blvd. to demand an open forum to discuss the proposed hike.
About 15 DePaul students and 25 non-students marched to DePaul University President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider’s office to discuss their concerns about the tuition increase and then occupied the building for a sit-in. DePaul public safety officers escorted the non-students out of the building for security reasons, but allowed the students to stay past administrative office hours.