- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

CHICAGO, March 19 (UPI) — Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley Wednesday said his city was as prepared as any other for terrorism and urged citizens to go about their normal lives and remain calm after possible war begins in Iraq.

"People don't make things worse," said a grim-faced mayor from the city's 911 emergency center on the West Side. "I just want the people of Chicago to know we are prepared for this as much as any other city can be."

As he did during the Persian Gulf War 12 years earlier, Daley warned people against engaging in acts of retribution or discrimination against Arab-Americans, saying there is no room for religious intolerance using war in the Middle East as an excuse.

"Let's leave the fighting to the military," Daley implored.

Police Superintendent Terry Hillard and Fire Commissioner James Joyce said emergency response teams were in place to handle potential biological or radiological incidents. Every police officer was ordered into full uniform except special services units and undercover officers working narcotics investigations.

Police were patrolling power plants, utility substations, commuter facilities, and marine units were on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich joined Daley in calling for the Federal Aviation Administration to declare a no-fly zone over downtown and to temporarily close Meigs Field, the city's small lakefront airport.

New York and Washington were declared no-fly zones when the Department of Homeland Security raised the terror alert from "yellow," or elevated alert to "orange," or high alert. Daley wants to know why Chicago was not included.

"A single-engine plane could fly from Florida all the way up here and circle downtown and have a jolly time," Daley said Tuesday. Blagojevich said declaring a no-fly zone was "the prudent and responsible" thing for federal officials to do.

Blagojevich detailed how Illinois would respond if the terror alert was upgraded to "red," the highest level, outlining procedures for managers and residents of high-rise office and residential buildings.

"My message to the people of Illinois today is the same as it was on Monday," Blagojevich said. "Continue business as you always do and rest assured we are fully prepared for any threat that may come our way."

Hillard appeared concerned about large-scale non-violent civil disobedience planned by peace protesters on the first day of a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Hillard said past anti-war demonstrations had been peaceful and anyone committing any act of violence or vandalism would be arrested, prosecuted and sued for damages by city attorneys.

"We expect the demonstrators to remain peaceful," Hillard said.

Cortez Trotter, head of the city's office of emergency management, said the pressroom at the 911 center was being converted to a fully equipped emergency preparedness center for the duration of the crisis.

Minnesota National Guard units reported for duty to provide additional security at nuclear power plants, oil refineries and water intake facilities in Minneapolis-St. Paul as officials readied the State Emergency Operations Center.

"There are no specific threats to Minnesota but we are prepared," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said.

Police continued random searches of vehicles at Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport and access was closed to all non-essential personnel at nuclear power plants as the nation implemented safeguards under "Operation Liberty Shield" unveiled Tuesday by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.

The short-term parking lot was closed near a terminal at Detroit Metropolitan International Airport and delays were expected at border crossings on Michigan's border with Canada.

Law enforcement officials refused to discuss specific security plans because of the growing potential of terror attacks in the United States.

Federal officials reportedly are securing 250 critical areas nationwide, including two key rail bridges in Iowa used by the Union Pacific Railroad and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad in Clinton and Madison counties. Iowa Homeland Security Adviser Ellen Gordon urged state residents to remain calm, prepared and alert.

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