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The United Center, where a broad “security footprint” is expected to be enforced by Chicago Police and the Secret Service during the 2024 Democratic National Convention.

The United Center, where a broad “security footprint” is expected to be enforced by Chicago Police and the Secret Service during the 2024 Democratic National Convention.

Tyler LaRiviere

‘Security footprint’ plan for Democratic Convention kicked to City Council for Wednesday vote

Some South Loop and Near West Side residents might have to adjust their dog-walking and bike-riding routes this summer in the vicinity of the Democratic National Convention — and they’ll definitely have to find another place to fly their drones.

The City Council’s Public Safety Committee on Thursday unanimously advanced an ordinance granting Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling and the U.S. Secret Service significant leeway to enforce a still-undefined “security footprint” around the United Center and the west building of McCormick Place during convention events.

Protesters, residents and other onlookers would be prohibited from bringing laptops, large bags, scooters, animals (except for service dogs), unmanned aircraft systems and other items into certain areas closest to convention attendees under the ordinance, which is teed up for a vote by the full City Council next Wednesday.

The restrictions are expected to be implemented in roughly a two-block radius of both the main convention sites, though the Secret Service likely won’t publicly map out the high-security bubble until early July, CPD counter-terrorism Chief Duane DeVries told Council members.



The U.S. Secret Service released maps this week of the areas surrounding the United Center (left) and the west building of McCormick Place, the two venues for the Democratic National Convention this August. The agency is interviewing people who live and work within those areas (outlined in orange) as it creates the security plan for the convention.

The U.S. Secret Service released maps this week of the areas surrounding the United Center (left) and the west building of McCormick Place, the two venues for the Democratic National Convention this August. The agency is interviewing people who live and work within those areas (outlined in orange) as it creates the security plan for the convention.

Justin Myers

While the restrictions will apply across that radius, DeVries suggested they would be enforced only in a “buffer zone” around barbed-wire fencing closest to the venues, where protests are expected to be most active.

“So if something goes bad, and those protests are pushing up against the fence, we don’t want anybody to get hurt and get crushed against the fence,” DeVries said. “Walking a dog in the neighborhood, you’re not gonna be right against that fencing. Yes, a dog wouldn’t be allowed in that area. But in the neighborhoods, the bike lanes, the scooters, backpacks, people going to work — they will be able to carry all that.”

The list of prohibited items — which CPD officials said was drafted by the Secret Service — also includes “any pointed object(s), including knives of any kind,” tents, folding chairs, balloons, coolers, glass or metal containers, umbrellas with metal tips, sealed packages, tripods, monopods and selfie sticks.

Bags can’t be larger than 18-by-13-by-7 inches. And don’t even think about firearms, ammo, fireworks, laser pointers, stun guns, tasers, pepper spray or toy weapons.

Law enforcement also could bar “any other items” considered “potential safety hazards,” according to the ordinance, which was introduced last month by Mayor Brandon Johnson.

Secret Service officials said earlier this week that they’ve begun canvassing “nearby residents and businesses who could be affected by the event’s security plan,” taking down questions and addressing “possible concerns,” the agency said in a statement.



Members of Unite Here Local 1 picket against a concessionaire outside United Center at 1901 W. Madison last year.

Members of Unite Here Local 1 picket against a concessionaire outside United Center at 1901 W. Madison last year.

Anthony Vazquez

The “general impact map” around the United Center runs from Maypole Avenue south to Van Buren Boulevard, between Leavitt Street and Ashland Avenue.

The possible footprint around McCormick Place is marked from Cullerton Street south to 26th Street, between State Street and the convention center’s east buildings.

The convention is scheduled for Monday to Thursday, Aug. 19 to 22. The security zone would be in effect Aug. 17 through Aug. 26 — that is, from the Saturday before the convention begins until the Monday after it ends.

That’s one of several “vexing” questions raised by the ordinance, according to Ed Yohnka, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.



The West Building of McCormick shown in 2020.

The West Building of McCormick shown in 2020.

Manuel Martinez

“It seems like an extraordinarily long time, and overly expansive,” said Yohnka, who urged officials to clearly define the security zone soon, and to “do a very vigorous job of educating the public on when and where it’ll be covered.”

“There are a range of people who have messages they want to direct at convention participants. They want to be as close as possible to deliver those messages, and if they don’t know what they can do and where — and for residents themselves — that raises all kinds of questions.”

DeVries told Council members “we’re not going to stop people from voicing their First Amendment. We will be prepared.”



The logo for the 2024 Democratic National Convention is displayed on the scoreboard during the DNC Winter Media Walkthrough at the United Center, in January.

The logo for the 2024 Democratic National Convention is displayed on the scoreboard during the DNC Winter Media Walkthrough at the United Center, in January.

Ashlee Rezin

2024 DNC Coverage

The call:Pritzker has been pitching Biden for the convention for over a year. The president called Pritzker Tuesday and told him, a source said, “I just want you to know we’re planning on having the Democratic convention in Chicago.”

Security: After the announcement, social media chatter about the violent 1968 convention started. But former police officials say the city needs to look at lessons from a more recent turbulent event in Chicago.

Residents react: “I think it’s a good thing. Chicago is a wonderful place. We have everything to offer,” said South Loop resident O’Dell Boyd.

Business boost: Local business leaders hope that by bringing a global spotlight to Chicago, the political event will show off the city’s best features and accelerate its post-pandemic resurgence.

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