Intense security a force Loop reckons with

VehiclesBarack ObamaChicago LoopU.S. Secret ServiceAlexander CalderRobert Mitchum

The president-elect's security force was an unavoidable presence in the Loop on Monday morning as Barack Obama met with John McCain in Chicago's Kluczynski Federal Building.

Thirty-eight floors below, dozens of officers from Federal Protective Services patrolled the building's lobby and periphery. Armed agents checked the photo IDs of everyone who entered a metal barricade enclosing the majority of the plaza the building shares with a large post office and an Alexander Calder sculpture.

Several Chicago police officers kept watch over traffic in surrounding blocks, redirecting trucks away from streets around the building.

Most people who work in the area said the massive security effort presented only minor inconveniences: a longer wait at the metal detector to enter the Kluczynski Building or a change of location for cigarette breaks.

"This is the president of the United States, of course he should have this much security," said Mark Frazier, a passport/visa expediter. "It's a necessary evil."

But for some businesses near the transition team's headquarters, the constant presence of Secret Service agents has meant more than the occasional hassle.

Brien Cron, the manager of the UPS store across from the entrance to the Kluczynski Building's underground garage, said business is down 50 percent within the last week.

Customers either don't realize the store remains open or are kept from the sidewalk in front of the store when Obama's motorcade is on the move, Cron said. Employees find themselves under scrutiny, and delivery truck drivers must walk their cargo from a parking spot two blocks away. When Cron's cell phone was seized and erased by an agent when he attempted to videotape the motorcade, Cron thought it was "way over the top."

Bucha and Bong Shin, owners of Downtown Cleaners on Quincy Street, were even more concerned about their business. Because their front door is on the street where postal trucks line up for inspection before entering the underground garage, foot traffic has virtually disappeared over the last two weeks.

"We're very worried," Bucha Shin said. "The winter is always very slow, and the economy is slow, so this just compounds everything. I don't know how we'll survive it."

The Shins and Cron said they had not been contacted by any law-enforcement agencies before the security effort was launched.

"We can't wait until he leaves," Cron said.

rmitchum@tribune.com

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