Despite all that heavy police presence and security, downtown Chicago was something of a ghost town Friday. Lots of people avoided the hassle and took the day off.
Surreal – that's how one Chicago resident described the mood downtown Friday. It is exactly the word to describe our city as it preparations for Sunday's NATO summit continue.
North Michigan Avenue was completely empty on Friday afternoon. One man enjoyed the fact that nothing was going on. He even said it should be like this every day.
Many businesses told employees to work from home Friday, and Monday as well. The lack of commuters making their way home allowed for record-breaking rush hour travel times, which made drivers extremely happy.
But it's not nice for business. Downtown bars and restaurants are nearly empty. The few customers they had ran outside to watch a nearby protest march. One woman remarked that it isn't every day Chicagoans get to see a rally like the one National Nurses United held in Dale7y Plaza Friday.
But there's something else in the air. Not just the constant buzz of news helicopters, or the constant echoes of police sirens. There's an undercurrent, and intensity - a sense that something big is unfolding.
"It's just something everyone has in the back of their mind right now," one man said. "Everyone hopes it goes smoothly. I think it will."
Adding to the sense of displacement, parts of the city look like a movie set. Chicago hasn't seen this many police cars since "The Blues Brothers."
Everywhere FOX Chicago News went, people were taking pictures. What else do you do when encountering two dozen mounted police officer in the heart of the Loop?
"We'll never see anything like this again - this many policemen sitting on this many horses in downtown Chicago," another woman said.
Up in Lakeview, a different sense of unreality blanketed the scene. Scores of protesters took over a quiet residential street near a host church. An impromptu protest closed down part of Broadway Thursday night.
"There was a pretty good gathering and it took us by surprise," a Lakeview resident said, "because here we are in Lakeview and everything else is supposed to be going on downtown."
"I like the idea of what they're doing," another resident said. "[But] I don't necessarily see how being on my block, blocking it off is really helping."