Police prepared with crowd control plan
April 27, 2006 (WLS) -- City officials unveiled their plan to deal with a major protest scheduled for Monday morning. As many as 500,000 people are expected to march through the Loop in support of illegal immigration reform.
Last month about 100,000 people marched through Chicago's downtown in a similar rally. Authorities said this time they will be prepared.
Monday's march starts at 10 a.m. in Union Park on the city's West Side and ends in Grant Park with a rally. One high-ranking officials told ABC7 that the rally could be the biggest downtown demonstration he has seen in 30 years on the force. The protest will snarl traffic as it snakes through the Loop. Some business owners said last month's march cost them.
"It shuts everything down around here. The traffic was very hectic and it shut business down, too. We were shut the entire day. It ruined our business," said John Nicholas, Holiday Grille & Bar.
An estimated 100,000 people attended that march. Police are bracing for double, and maybe even triple that number on Monday. March organizers said there could be as many as 500,000 participants. Officers will begin gathering between 8 and 10 in the morning on the city's West Side. At 10, police expect the crowd to begin marching along Randolph toward the Loop. By 3p.m., demonstrators are expected to be in Grant Park, where there will be several speeches. Law enforcement hopes to clear the crowd from the downtown area by 6: p.m.
"The police officers you see at this march will not be dressed in riot gear. They'll be dressed in soft uniforms because we anticipate an orderly march, where individuals are trying to get out their message," said Deputy Supt. Charles Williams, Chicago Police.
Organizers are working more closely with police this time around. In March, the size and scope of the demonstration surprised almost everyone. This time around, expect more immigrant groups to take part.
"There are going to be more ethnic groups than before. We know that within the Polish community and Irish community and African community and Asian community that they have also been organizing. So we expect this to be a very peaceful march, but a march that basically talks about the makeup of the city of Chicago," said Ald. Billy Ocasio26th Ward.
Police said they have not received information suggesting large-scale counter demonstrations. If groups do materialize, there could be a change in the peaceful protests.
Officials are also encouraging parents who are participating in the demonstration to leave their children at home. In the March rally, many families were separated. If children do plan on coming to the event, officers are asking parents to write down cell phone numbers and addresses on pieces of paper kept in the children's pockets.
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