While Chicago prepares for protestors of the NATO summit, May 20-21, city and federal officials now face the larger issue of how to deal with violent anarchist groups set to appear, a security consultant said.
Groups like Black Bloc and Anonymous, which are anarchist protest groups who engage in tactics such as rioting, large street fights and vandalism, are just a couple examples of groups authorities are concerned about.
“Their plan is to come in with their groups and engage in a violent demonstration,” said Don Zoufal, current security consultant for System Development Integration, LLC, and former special Assistant to the Director at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency
There will be thousands of protesters in Chicago for the summit held at McCormick Place. Many who are part of large, nationally recognized organizations, such as the Occupy Movement. However, Zoufal said it is the smaller, more radical groups that are causing the most worry for the city.
“An overwhelming most of them have important social issues they think need to be aired, but there is a core group who are more interested in the destruction of the city, ” said Zoufal, who also helped with security for the 1996 Democratic National Convention and served as first Deputy at the City of Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications. ”They want to bait the government and push the government to get their message out.”
These nihilist groups not only want to cause distractions for the city, but some, “just want to cause mayhem,” said Zoufal.
“There is a core group of individuals who will come to Chicago with the express purpose of disrupting the city,” said Zoufal, who is also a retired U.S. Army Colonel with 30 years of military experience, ” and there’s an even smaller core within that group who will come here with the express intent of causing significant damage to property.”
The groups with a specific mission to cause as much damage and distress to Chicago will most likely come with strategic ways to execute their plans.
“They [anarchist groups] will get to the point where they will go out, damage property, get rid of their stuff and then blend back into the crowd, which makes it very difficult for the police to address,” Zoufal said.
Government officials will be gathering background information on the groups so they can prevent as much violent behavior as possible.
“The government will certainly be conducting chilling tactics, which is gathering intelligence on these organizations and groups so they can try to interdict them,” said Zoufal. ”They’ll try to figure out who’s who and what they’re up to.”
However, those chilling practices can pass into the realm of inhibiting groups to practice their rights.
“It’s permissible to gather information about what’s going on, but if you go too far, it chills people,” said Zoufal. “They won’t feel comfortable demonstrating if they know the police are ultimately going to watch them as a result of their actions.”
Although there is a fine line between researching a group and engaging in chilling, the Chicago police and other departments plan to go as far as they legally can to get information that will help them protect the city.
“There will be arguments about the activities of the Chicago Police Department, the state police, the federal government, and the FBI, who will be gathering information about groups that are going to be here with the notion, not of interfering with their rights, but the potential criminal activity they’ve been involved in,” Zoufal said.
Even with the police department and FBI looking into them, it is not likely the groups will be scared off.
“There is no doubt these groups will be here and I have no doubt they will cause significant damage,” Zoufal said. ”They’ll be out there for sure, you can bet on it.”