The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) took place this week from September 21-24 in Midtown Manhattan at the Sheraton Hotel. For the uninformed, CGI is an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, which convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. CGI claims that since 2005, CGI members have made 3,100+ Commitments to Action in communities around the world.
Unfortunately, it was the action of CGI security that captured many journalists attention at this years event. As a CGI attendee in 2008 I was no stranger to excessive security. The actions taken by Secret Service and other staff at #CGI2014 stepped over the bounds of what is reasonable. It was in 2008, I was told by an APCOWORLDWIDE staffer, that a few "security incidents" took place. This was the year that I was able to ask President Clinton about his involvement in The BilderBerg Group when I bumped into him catching his SS detail completely off-guard. During my first plenary President Clinton announced an new initiative to take place in Athens in June 2015. As a Greek American, and someone who has extensively covered the euro-crisis since the start this was a perfect story. I immediately asked a staffer from APCOWORLDWIDE for an interview request and followed up numerous times; no luck. I decided to try for an easier request; a member from the CGI social media team, no dice. Once security became a story (I had yet to learn of this). I asked for an interview with anyone from the CGI security team; strike 3! It seems CGI security had a bathroom fetish.
What are the details of this security apparatus that has grabbed headlines this week and how do it differ from my CGI experience in 2008? Every year CGI is hosted at the Sheraton Hotel. Hotel guests are required to be checked outside by Secret Service; while credentialed press are able to proceed down the steps which lead to metal detectors manned by TSA agents (same as 2008). Enter the lobby, go down a few more steps and you are in the press area. You are unable to leave this area without a CGI staffer (different from 2008). After having being unprepared when I brushed past Madeleine Albright; I decided to mill about the lobby in the hopes of redeeming myself. After I was passed off from one group of CGI staffers to another I asked my new guardians how long my leash was allowed to be. As long as I was in their eyesight, it was OK, I was told. Nevertheless, when I wandered "too far" I was surrounded by Homeland Security, Secret Service and who knows who else. I was asked if I was filming, they did not go so far as to ask to see my equipment. A senior CGI staffer intervened and scolded me like a schoolboy. Earlier in the week I had asked for permission (Press laws in USA do not require this) from Secret Service to photograph them; they obliged and I omitted their faces. After I realized security at CGI was going to be the story I attempted to obtain photos of Secret Service checking cars. I thought my followers would find this fascinating as the majority of them are not Americans and might've never seen such a spectacle. With the utmost respect I approached a pre-pubescent looking SS agent and pleaded my case, I was "greeted" with nothing but hostility and sent to a supervisor who told me it is the agents personal choice (lie). I left to a store when I returned said supervisor informs me I will be labelled a security risk and ejected from the event if I took any photos of Secret Service. I wasn't even allowed to shoot their feet! Strike 4!
CGI took place in cooperation with The Peoples Climate Change March. An environmental initiative;that left Manhattan a landfill of garbage in its wake and The Citizens Global Festival which will be attended by the leaders of India, Bangladesh and Norway. Anyone who has been following me knows of the strife presently taking place along the Bangladeshi/Indian border which is going by ignored by MSM. In the end I did get three stories, one you are reading, another is about a Special Olympics blogger whom I met. #PlayUnified for more information. My final story is about @freeconvo a REAL initiative taken up by REAL citizens to erase racism and misunderstanding by bringing back the ancient art of conversation, maybe there is hope for humanity after all. #StayHuman Anthony Verias Press Room at CGI2014; movement outside this room was greatly restricted