CHICAGO – The White House announced abruptly March 5 that the Group of 8 meeting of leaders of the top capitalist countries, originally planned to be here in May, would be moved to Camp David in Maryland. Speculation abounds on the reasons.
Was it the reports that security arrangements were in chaos and costs getting out of hand?
Was it potential political problems for the president if world media were to be broadcasting Occupy movement protests against the world’s 1% in his hometown?
Was it the ghosts of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, where Mayor Richard J. Daley’s police bloodied antiwar protesters, with video footage seen round the world and throwing the elections to Richard Nixon?
The president said yesterday in a press conference it was none of those. It was his staff’s realization that he had not hosted any world leaders at Camp David and by doing so for the G8 it would create a more relaxed atmosphere for the talks.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who reportedly was notified shortly before the announcement was made, called it a “win-win” because the city still gets to “showcase” itself for global investment and tourism since the NATO summit meeting will still take place here, May 20-21. And, Emanuel said, the president gets the type of atmosphere he wants for the G8.
Even G8/NATO protest organizers called it a win-win, albeit for different reasons. Occupy activists said it was a victory the G8 was moved due to the mass organizing happening here and globally. Protesters still get to exercise their First Amendment rights and demonstrate against military intervention and war during the NATO summit.
Occupy Wall Street group Adbusters said in a statement, “The specter of 50,000 nonviolent occupiers flooding the Windy City with a list of demands for the world’s political elites was apparently too powerful. The NATO summit will still be meeting in Chicago… for now at least.”
Observers say there is still plenty to protest. Cutting military budgets to invest in education, health care, job creation; bringing the troops home from Afghanistan; no new NATO interventions in Syria or Iran, are sure to be among the demands. But the groups that protest on these issues are generally more limited than those that might have turned out for the G8..
Many labor, environmental and community organizations here – and globally – have put their priority on the G8’s role on economic/environmental issues. Thus it’s expected the protests here this May will be smaller than might have been the case if the G8 meeting had provided the opportunity to link these issues with those of war and peace.
In the political calculus of a presidential election year, a world meet possibly marred by images of tear gas and violence was sure to have been a factor in why the White House pulled the plug. Reports of Chicago police officers buying their own riot gear, taxpayers having to foot the increasing bill, combined with no clear security and traffic plan for residents and businesses, must have worried the White House.
Chicagoans are having fun speculating on Emanuel’s real reaction to the news. The former White House chief of staff used his ties to the White House during his mayoral campaign and practically demanded the meetings be in Chicago. Known for his unvarnished language, Emanuel must have dropped a few of his famous f-bombs when he saw “the adults” send part of his dream down the drain.
Photo: Labor/community coalition StandUpChicago and MoveOn hold a rally for jobs as part of Occupy Chicago. (PW/Pepe Lozano )