Editor's Pick 29-04-2024 11:03 17 Views

GOP urges Secret Service to move protesters from park near convention arena

The Republican Party is urging the Secret Service to move protesters farther away from the arena in Milwaukee where the party will hold its convention in July, according to a letter sent to the agency Friday and reviewed by The Washington Post.

Milwaukee’s plan to host protesters in a one-block city park about a quarter-mile from the arena is dangerous because thousands of convention attendees will be forced to walk by the park en route to the festivities, a lawyer for the Republican Party wrote in the letter. The park is situated between two main streets that the Republican National Committee says convention attendees will use to get to the venue.

“This will force thousands of peaceful attendees and demonstrators, who may otherwise choose to avoid or limit direct, proximate engagement with one another, to be in extremely close, consistent, and unavoidable proximity. As recent college and university campus clashes make plain, forced proximity heightens tensions among peaceful attendees and demonstrators of differing ideologies and increases the risk of escalation to verbal, or even physical, clashes and corresponding law enforcement intervention,” wrote the lawyer, Todd Steggerda of McGuireWoods.

Instead, the GOP wants the Secret Service to include the area called Pere Marquette Park in its security perimeter, which would force the city to choose a different area for its “First Amendment Zone.” Pere Marquette is the closest large park to the arena. The RNC has proposed another park by City Hall across the river from the arena, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

In the letter, Steggerda wrote that the RNC asked low-level Secret Service officials to change the plan, but “this critical shortcoming has not been addressed.” By sending the letter, the RNC is escalating the dispute to the director of the Secret Service and demanding a meeting to discuss the issue.

A spokesman for the Secret Service said the agency has not yet received the letter, but decisions about protest locations and convention security are made by a steering committee of local authorities and federal partners who know the host communities best.

GOP officials expect large protests this summer at the convention in Milwaukee, and the city is already organizing a daily speaking program and parade for the protesters.

“To accommodate speakers, the City will provide an organized speaker’s platform with ample space, audio equipment and a podium a short distance from Fiserv Forum,” according to the city’s website.

Nick DeSiato, chief of staff for the city of Milwaukee, said the city is also facing pressure from protesters who want to be closer to the convention. Pere Marquette Park is the closest available park within “sight and sound” of the convention, he said, and other parks in the city are farther away.

“The location is based on the security perimeter exclusively established by the Secret Service,” he said.

Secret Service officials have told city officials that they do not want to get involved in a political fight, said another person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential negotiations.

“This was not set up to stick it to the Republicans. This was where we were going to have the protest area for the Democrats in 2020 as well,” this person said.

City officials said that activist groups, some Republicans and individual citizens have requested to speak at the designated protest site. Protesters could sue the city if they are pushed too far away from the arena where the convention is being held.

Former president Donald Trump has long abhorred protesters and is accustomed to fawning crowds. When protesters enter his rallies and began chanting, they are usually quickly dragged out as the crowd cheers.

He faced no protesters at the 2020 convention because it was held on the lawn of the White House. The Post reported that protests in Cleveland in 2016 for the GOP convention were smaller than expected.

Liberal groups have also gotten angry with the city of Milwaukee for what they say are too-strict limitations on protesters. Some have argued that the protest site is already too far away from the convention hall.

“The ordinance that the city has passed places numerous restrictions on the time, place and manner that individuals can march, rally and protest — and we think without full regard to proper limitations that protect those individuals’ First Amendment rights,” Ryan Cox, legal director for the ACLU of Wisconsin, told Wisconsin Public Radio last month.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post
Other news