Obama rally: McCormick Place site to limit attendance

Four years ago, Janesh Rahlan watched the Grant Park presidential election extravaganza play out on TV from the confines of his parent's Aurora home.

"I did want to go, but my parents said that is not happening on a school night," said Rahlan, now 20 and a junior at Northwestern University.

This time around, however, Rahlan said that all the homework and midterms in college could not keep him away from President Barack Obama's McCormick Place rally.

The atmosphere Tuesday, however, is likely to lack the spectacle of 2008, when an estimated 240,000 people streamed into Grant Park to see a victorious Obama speak, a historic moment marking the election of the first African-American president.

Obama's campaign chose to keep its festivities indoors this year, where the crowd will be limited to a few thousand die-hard supporters who volunteered to work for the campaign in the final days. For supporters who don't have a ticket to the event, a CNN-organized gathering in the plaza outside the James R. Thompson Center may be the only public event available.

City and campaign officials have made no announcements of accommodations for a public gathering. Information about Tuesday's plans has been sparse. City officials said the Office of Emergency Management and Communication would be announcing traffic restrictions related to the president's visit, but as of late Monday no announcements had been made.

If Obama plans to move around the city Tuesday, commuters should expect other temporary road closings to accommodate his motorcade. Workers at the Aon Center were notified Monday by the building's management that Columbus Drive near the office tower will be shut down Tuesday, with city salt trucks used as barriers. Several other streets surrounding the building will be subject to "rolling closures" because of motorcades in the area, the notice read.

At some point Tuesday night, Obama will join supporters at McCormick Place's Lakeside Center, the older, black steel and glass building on the east side of Lake Shore Drive. Campaign officials have not said how many people will be allowed into the convention center, but no one will be allowed in without a ticket.

After days of making calls to voters in battleground states, Rahlan was one of many Chicago-area volunteers to receive a ticket Monday to the president's watch party Tuesday night.

He received the ticket at a Skokie Obama campaign phone bank location and summed up his reaction with one word.

"Ecstatic," Rahlan said. "It (is) one of those things where you get to be a part of history."

Rahlan said he plans to take public transportation to McCormick Place on Tuesday and arrive around 8:30 or 9 p.m. Before then, however, he said he might work a little more at the Skokie phone bank.

"Just to make a final push," he said.

City officials finalized a permit Monday for CNN to park a satellite truck and a jumbo television screen on Randolph Street between City Hall and the Thompson Center plaza. The cable network is inviting the public to watch results on the big screen, and it plans to televise part of its election coverage from the location.

The city also issued parade and demonstration permits for a Tuesday night immigration rights rally. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights plans to march from Chinatown to McCormick Place, arriving at the west side of the complex at 8:30 p.m. and remaining there for a vigil until 10:45 p.m. The group will gather at 2333 S. Martin Luther King Drive, which is on the opposite side of Lake Shore Drive from the president's rally.

cdizikes@tribune.com

dheinzmann@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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