Arena fortified for Cheney

By Dave Gomez

Officials are remaining tight-lipped over heightened security being assembled in preparation for Vice President Dick Cheney’s Saturday visit to the Convocation Center.

Brad Hahn, press secretary for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, said he was unable to comment specifically on security issues, but did say that federal and local law enforcement will be cooperating at the event. Cheney will be a guest speaker at the annual fundraiser for Hastert.

Security Detail

Lt. Jim Kayes of the DeKalb Police Department said that local police are prepared to do their part for Cheney’s appearance, but also would not give specifics.

“We’re the eye that never closes,” Kayes said. “We’re always prepared.”

The Convo Center is working in conjunction with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to ensure that the event runs smoothly.

City of DeKalb, DeKalb County and Illinois State Police officials said they will be assisting federal officials but could not provide further details.

As vice president, Cheney’s protection is provided by the Secret Service.

The Secret Service declined to comment on event security for Cheney’s visit.

“Security is a major priority for us when we have two of the three most powerful people in the United States in our building,” said Kevin Selover, marketing manager for the Convo Center.

Cheney’s visit comes several weeks after a security scare during the Republican National Convention in New York, when a man shouting anti-war slogans came within several feet of the vice president’s booth. The man was arrested and charged with assaulting federal officers and impeding Secret Service operations.

To ensure safety, several special precautions are being taken.

“We will have overnight security and police officers at the building a few days prior to the event,” Selover said. “Everyone attending the event must have a ticket to get into the parking lot.”

Everyone at the fundraiser, including staff members, must have completed a background check, Selover said. Officials estimate 2,300 will attend.

People attending Saturday’s event will also go through a metal detector before entering the building, Selover said. Police officers with dogs will be patrolling the area as part of the security detail.

NIU is one of the few universities in the nation to have a police force that is equipped with a bomb-sniffing canine unit, Kayes said.

University Police did not return phone calls to confirm if they would be participating in security preparations for Saturday’s event.

Protesters and supporters plan Cheney-related events

Cheney’s visit will be met with protests from several local groups.

The DeKalb Interfaith Network for Peace and Justice, NIU’s Northern Coalition for Peace and Justice, PRISM, NIU College Democrats and Rock Valley Greens are just some of the different organizations around the DeKalb area that will make their way to the Convo Center to give Cheney what they consider a “proper welcoming.”

“We feel that Cheney was one of the chief voices in propelling this country into an unnecessary, disastrous war in Iraq,” said Cele Meyer, co-coordinator for the DeKalb Interfaith Network for Peace and Justice. “He also is the former head of Halliburton, a leading U.S. firm making millions on no-bid contracts for Iraq reconstruction.”

Protesters are advised to leave their sticks at home and bring their signs, Meyer said.

James Johnson, president of the Rock Valley Greens, said it’s hard for him to choose what he will focus his protest on since he is against so much of what the current administration stands for.

Johnson did say he believes the main focus of the protest will be directed against the war.

“I think anti-war protests are a great way to give a voice to innocent civilians who have been killed or injured,” Johnson said. “There have been at least 20,000 innocent people killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since combat started in both countries.”

Nathan Hall, a senior electrical engineering technology major, agrees with a person’s right to protest even if he thinks the current Bush administration is doing a fairly decent job under current circumstances.

“Protesting is exercising your right to free speech – everyone should be entitled to it,” Hall said.

Meyer hopes the protest will be able to counteract some of the pro-Bush, Cheney and Hastert publicity.

Going out and protesting against the current administration’s policies will give others who oppose the policies the comfort of knowing they are not alone, she said.

Meyer said she doesn’t expect a problem with conservatives protesting their protest and respects their right to do so.

“We’re used to them protesting our protest,” she said. “It really doesn’t bother us, we know where we are coming from.”

Eric Johnson, president of the NIU College Republicans, said his organization doesn’t have any plans to be at the Convo Center Saturday to protest against the protesters.

Look in Monday’s Northern Star for complete coverage of Cheney’s visit to NIU.