Chicago DNC getting 'window dressing treatment': former CPD chief detective

Chicago will soon be in the national spotlight when it hosts the Democratic National Convention in August, but primarily in the glitzed-up areas leaders want to be seen.

The city is facing a few complications: its stubborn problem with violence, the "wild card" of left-wing anti-Israel agitators, worn-down infrastructure, and the specter of the infamous clashes when Chicago hosted the DNC back in 1968.

Street and walkway upgrades are already underway. And according to a law enforcement source, the plan is to isolate the convention area from the rest of the city entirely, with access only for the media, law enforcement and DNC designees.

"We are going to basically never see a protester or rioters, period," the source said. "The convention sites are completely cordoned off. There will be nobody that is not authorized."

Authorities are imposing strict measures on people who live and work inside the secure zone as well, including vehicle checks.

The city already has a 10 p.m. youth curfew for the summer, and some leaders are looking to move the start time to 8 p.m.

"They want to portray an image of calm, of peace, an orderly convention," said Gene Roy, the Chicago Police Department's former chief of detectives and a public safety consultant. "They obviously do not want any negative images, whether it's protesters or confrontations with police, to get out. So, the people that are planning this are doing their best to avoid that."

The two sites chosen for the DNC, United Center and the McCormick Place convention center, will become highly secured bubbles, he told Fox News Digital. The city's problems with violence and rowdy youths will be tucked away out of view.

"The DNC and all the political types, they are going to parachute in or helicopter in, and they're not going to be affected by this," he said. "Days ago, we had a terrible tragedy, a 7-year-old playing outside in front of his house shot with an AK-47. That's terrible."


Chicago Secret Service discusses DNC preparations amid resident concerns

Chicago is two months away from the start of the 2024 Democratic National Convention.

He blamed progressive bail reforms, selective prosecutions and lenient punishments for the continued struggles with violence.

While murders have declined two years in a row after rising in 2020 and 2021, violent crime as a whole, led by soaring robberies, has climbed in the Windy City, police statistics show. Yearly car thefts nearly tripled between 2020 and 2023 from 9,910 to 29,287.

"You can't just turn that climate around in six weeks," Roy said.

Still, crews are at work improving the roadways in and out of the convention areas and replacing rusted handrails as city leaders continue their preparations for the event, which could see protests from right-wing critics of the Democratic Party and also from far-left anti-Israel extremists who have been critical of the Biden administration in demonstrations across the country.

"About a month ago, they came out and replaced all the guard rails – what a coincidence," Roy said. "It's window dressing."

Democrat leaders from the White House down to the mayor's office are hoping to minimize disruptions and avoid bad optics.

"There are 2 million people outside these two little bubbles, and they need 911, they need the police," Roy said. "It's no fault of the police or the police administration, it’s the fault of the city administration, which has systematically allowed police personnel to be depleted down through the years."

Police officers run in formation as the Chicago Police Department offers a first look at officer training at McCormick Place on June 6, 2024, in preparation for the Democratic National Convention in August. The officers at the training session are am

Another specter is that of the city's infamous Democratic National Convention in 1968.

That's the year massive left-wing protests against the Vietnam War erupted outside the DNC and were met with a violent crackdown. This year, experts are concerned that anti-Israel agitators who have disrupted city roadways could use the convention to get more attention to their cause. They have already protested at the convention sites, months before it opens. 

"If they can embarrass Chicago, if they can embarrass the governor, the mayor, the president, they're happy," Roy said. "Mission achieved. They don’t have to score a touchdown with a two-point conversion. A field goal will do, and they’ll settle for a field goal."

The 2020 riots that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody are also fresh on many minds.


Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling vowed in a recent Chicago Tribune op-ed that this year's convention would be free of the chaos seen in 1968 and 2020.

"As I’ve said repeatedly, if you want to protest and have your voice heard, CPD will protect your right to do so," he wrote. "But looting, burning property, inflicting violence on innocent people and attacking the police are criminal acts and are not protected by the First Amendment or tolerated by CPD. We are not going to allow anyone to destroy this city."

The key to that, he added, is extensive planning and preparation.

"Most importantly, I have complete faith and trust in the department, our officers and the people of Chicago," he wrote. "We all want the same thing: a successful and safe convention."

DNC organizers said the safety zones are standard procedure and that similar measures would be taken in Milwaukee for the Republican National Convention.  

"A security perimeter is a Secret Service requirement that is standard at all National Special Security Events, regardless of party or location," the DNC told Fox News Digital in a statement.

There are also concerns among the officers being asked to assist from out of town.

"There is an anticipation that it's going to be a chaotic situation," said Betsy Brantner Smith, a retired police sergeant and spokesperson for the National Police Association.

Chicago police are also governed by an outside oversight agency known as the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, she said. Its impact on assisting officers from other departments, should something go wrong, is not immediately clear.

"There's just a lot of concern, not so much for their safety but for their careers and their freedoms, which is so unfortunate," she said.

In addition to crime and protests, she added, city residents are also dealing with an unfettered influx of migrants.

Last week, viral video emerged showing a large group of young people partying in the street. When police tried to take one of them into custody, someone ran up behind the officer and hit him in the back of the head. Then a group of girls started twerking as others recorded the event on their smartphones.

"The Democrats should be able to have their convention without strife. This is our American political system," Brantner Smith said. "But the problem you have is they are the party who has now so vilified law enforcement. I would love to sit and chat with all of the abolish the police and defund the police Democrat politicians and ask them exactly how would you run this convention without the police?"