Red Zone designed to protect Loop during summit

April 26, 2012 3:09:23 PM PDT
Operation Red Zone is the federal government's plan to protect its property in the Loop during next month's NATO Summit.

Federal agents in battle gear will be on patrol in the Loop starting next week.

The federal protection service will be in charge of the operation.

A perimeter has been established around the federal government's buildings in the South Loop. According to a published report, the perimeter runs from Harrison St. on the south to Adams St. on the north and State St. on the east to Franklin on the west.

The plan calls for highly-visible officers in military-like uniforms standing guard at key federal buildings in the Loop.

"It's definitely going to be intimidating," said federal worker Michael Kolinski. "I think it's going to be a real sight for people to see while they're down here, you know?"

Included in the zone is the famed Berghoff Restaurant on W. Adams, which has an alley adjacent to the Dirksen Federal Building.

Perhaps because of that, managers earlier this week were briefed by federal authorities.

"There definitely in the buildings themselves, there'll be heightened security, more officers," said Berghoff general manager Ted Rink. "There will also be in the general vicinity of these buildings there will be more folks out on foot."

Not everyone was informed of the plan, including the head of Chicago's NATO host committee.

"A lot of us were surprised to read that," said NATO host committee chair Lori Healey. "Obviously the federal government doesn't consult with the city when they do this. Everybody was unaware of this."

Though their presence is a show of force, the officers reportedly will be carrying non-lethal weapons, including guns that shoot bean bags.

The plan's stated goal is public safety while preserving people's right to assemble, but protest organizer Andy Thayer sees something sinister.

"There's ways of doing security that actually keep a place secure without sending a message of intimidation," he said. "But this is, it's frankly patent intimidation."

In the event of trouble, the plan reportedly calls for authorities to shut down access to the red zone...

The owner of Cavanaugh's Bar and Restaurant says he hasn't been briefed on any red zone plans, but now hopes to be.

"I think everybody does in this area, at least for an individual business to know exactly how to participate in a manner that we can help," Kurt Wiese said.

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