- Terje Langeland
- The Broadmoor hotel and Colorado Springs police are bracing for next weeks NATO summit.
The last time protesters targeted an event at The Broadmoor hotel, Colorado Springs riot police swarmed the area, tailed the protesters everywhere they went, and reported the protestors' identities to an FBI anti-terrorism squad.
And the last time U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld came to town, peace activists were arrested -- illegally, a judge later ruled -- for demonstrating against him.
Next week, Rumsfeld returns to the Springs along with defense ministers from 25 other nations to attend a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) at The Broadmoor.
Once again, activists plan to stage demonstrations -- targeting Rumsfeld, the war in Iraq, and what they claim is an effort by the United States to "bully" other NATO countries into backing its wars around the globe.
And again, police don't plan on cutting the protesters any slack.
"We're going to keep them away to a point where we feel it's safe for the public and the attendees of that conference," said Springs Police Chief Luis Velez.
Police plan to set up a two-block "security zone" around the resort, which will be closed to all but the 1,500 officials and media representatives expected to attend the summit, Broadmoor employees, and people who live or work in the area. All who enter or leave will have to pass through checkpoints. The federal government will reimburse the police department for overtime expenses.
A similar attempt to keep protesters away from the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles was thrown out by a judge, who said it infringed on their First Amendment rights.
However, despite taking a year to plan security measures for the NATO summit, police did not consider such constitutional concerns, Velez said.
Nor does it appear likely that local activists will challenge the security zone. Cyndy Kulp, a member of the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, said protesters simply plan to line up along Lake Avenue Tuesday afternoon when delegates are expected to arrive for the summit, which runs Wednesday through Thursday. Kulp said she's hoping for a peaceful protest involving a few hundred people.
Central to the efforts
While no agenda has been released for the NATO gathering, the defense ministers are expected to discuss reshaping the alliance, which was formed in 1949 to protect Western Europe against a hypothetical attack by the Soviet Union.
With the Soviet Union long gone, the alliance has gone from a purely defensive alliance to one that participated in the 1999 Kosovo war and is currently commanding troops in Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld is expected to press for greater NATO involvement in U.S. missile-defense plans and the global "war on terror." Colorado Springs is central to both efforts, as a missile-defense hub and as the home of Northern Command, which is charged with responding to terrorism attacks in North America.
Peace activists, meanwhile, argue the alliance is obsolete.
"NATO has achieved its goal and should basically just disband," Kulp said. Instead, "they're looking for new enemies."