Rosemont prepares for Pence's visit Friday, possible protests

Updated 7/12/2018 4:43 PM
  • Vice President Mike Pence will make a stop in Rosemont Friday to tout the federal tax law approved late last year. Village officials are preparing for large crowds of supporters and protesters.

    Vice President Mike Pence will make a stop in Rosemont Friday to tout the federal tax law approved late last year. Village officials are preparing for large crowds of supporters and protesters. Associated Press, 2016

Vice President Mike Pence will speak at an event Friday in Rosemont, where local officials are busy making security preparations and bracing for expected protests.

Pence is scheduled to discuss the federal tax reform law at an event sponsored by America First Policies, an organization tied to the pro-President Donald Trump super PAC America First Action. Pence was in Kansas City Wednesday as part of the group's "Tax Cuts to Put America First" tour, which also had stops recently in Indiana and Ohio.

Pence is expected to take the stage about 12:30 p.m. Friday, in the grand ballroom of The Westin O'Hare hotel, 6100 N. River Road. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. Free tickets to the event are available through the organization's website.

Rosemont officials have been preparing for Pence's visit for weeks, talking with the Secret Service, Illinois State Police and Chicago Police Department. Officials say there will be a significant police presence both inside and outside the hotel, where both pro- and anti-Trump administration protesters could gather.

"He's the vice president, and we know there's going to be protests," Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens said. "We'll have as many (police) there as needed."

Added Rosemont Public Safety Department Chief Donald Stephens III: "We're going to be prepared for anything and everything."

The department is planning to send out a traffic advisory alert recommending drivers don't travel in the area Friday. The Illinois Department of Transportation already has decided to suspend roadwork on Higgins Road Friday in anticipation of higher-than-normal traffic. Other road closures are likely during the vice president's visit, officials said.

It won't be Pence's first visit to Rosemont. Months before the 2016 election, he attended his daughter's graduation from DePaul University at the Allstate Arena.

Pence was in Chicago last summer for a Republican National Committee retreat at a downtown hotel, and months before as vice president-elect, for a GOP fundraiser.

Tim Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, said Wednesday he doesn't know much about Pence's visit other than the event is not affiliated with the state GOP.

Stephens, a committeeman of the Leyden Township Regular Republican Organization, isn't planning to attend the event.

Rosemont has played host to a sitting vice president or president numerous times. Vice President Dick Cheney attended a GOP fundraiser at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in 2004. President Ronald Reagan and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush famously attended a rally at the arena, then known as the Rosemont Horizon, two days before the 1984 election.

Stephens III recalls an appearance at the convention center in the mid-1990s by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich that drew sizable protests and police in riot gear.

The security and logistical preparations being made for Pence's visit aren't unlike preparations made in the past, the chief said, considering the number of politicians who've made stops in Rosemont over the years.

"This isn't something we're new to," Stephens III said.

• Daily Herald staff writer Jake Griffin contributed to this report.

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