G.O.P. Says Protest Zone Will Be Moved Away From Convention Site - The World News

G.O.P. Says Protest Zone Will Be Moved Away From Convention Site

The U.S. Secret Service, after weeks of pressure from Republican officials, has agreed to make a Milwaukee park near the Republican National Convention off limits to protesters who would have been in shouting distance of delegates and other convention-goers, convention officials said Thursday.

The Secret Service disputed the statement, saying no final decision had been made, but in the war of words between the Republican National Committee and the service, the R.N.C. seemed to be claiming victory in its fight to wall off Pere Marquette Park from protesters.

“We applaud Secret Service leadership for including Pere Marquette Park in the security perimeter,” said Danielle Alvarez, a senior adviser to the campaign of former President Donald J. Trump. She said party leaders “implore local officials to expedite the permit application” and “choose a different location for the First Amendment Zone.”

Todd R. Steggerda, a lawyer for the Republican National Committee, last month raised the specter of “an increased and untenable risk of violence” when he demanded that the Secret Service’s director, Kimberly A. Cheatle, personally intervene to move the so-called First Amendment Zone.

The service had responded that, with its decades of experience, its officers would be able to keep convention-goers safe, even if demonstrators were allowed to gather in Pere Marquette Park, on the bank of the Milwaukee River, about a quarter-mile from the arena hosting the convention.

On Thursday, Republican officials said the park had been pulled into the security zone surrounding the Fiserve Forum, where the main convention functions would take place.

The Secret Service’s statement said the matter wasn’t resolved.

“As of right now, the security plan for the 2024 Republican National Convention, which includes the security perimeter, is still in development,” said Alexandria Worley, a spokeswoman for the service. “The U.S. Secret Service does not determine demonstration zones for National Special Security Events — those decisions are made by the host city.”

Jeff Fleming, a spokesman for Milwaukee’s mayor, Cavalier Johnson, also said on Thursday that no decision had been made on the location of the protest zone. Mr. Johnson, a Democrat, has welcomed the convention, but he is balancing the needs of convention-goers with the demands of protesters from his heavily Democratic city. The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin sued the city last week on behalf of a protest umbrella group, the Coalition to March on the R.N.C., claiming city officials had already curtailed free speech in Milwaukee.

Omar Flores, a leader of a coalition of protesters, said Thursday that the Pere Marquette Park site was already problematic. He said that it was too far from the convention location, and that city permits had crowded together opposing groups that most likely would have clashed.

Still, any agreement to put the closest park in the security perimeter may force the city’s hands. Republicans had demanded that the city push the protest zone south about a half-mile to Zeidler Union Square, out of sight and earshot of convention-goers filing into the main arena. To drive the issue, Republicans have applied for their own permit to stage events in Pere Marquette Park.

It will be up to city and Milwaukee County officials to seek the permits for a new location.

Much attention has been paid to the protesters expected to mass in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention in August, where President Biden will formally be named the party’s nominee for the 2024 election. Mr. Biden has been dogged by demonstrators objecting to his support for Israel in its war on Hamas in Gaza.

But protesters have also vowed to be in Milwaukee to “fight the racist and reactionary agenda of the Republican Party.” If those protesters are penned in far from the convention site, it could embolden Chicago authorities to make their own moves early to contain demonstrations.

“The Secret Service and the city seem to bend at the will of the Republicans,” Mr. Flores said.

Republican lawyers have been moving for weeks to hem in demonstrators in Milwaukee.

“Your failure to act now to prevent these unnecessary and certain risks will imperil tens of thousands of convention attendees, inexcusably forcing them into close proximity to the currently planned First Amendment Zone,” Mr. Steggerda wrote to Ms. Cheatle last month.

The Secret Service responded angrily after Mr. Steggerda’s letter was made public, complete with a map of a tentative security perimeter.

“Publicly disclosing security information, as done in this letter, undermines our ability to maintain the integrity of our security plan and keep the convention, attendees and the public safe,” Anthony Guglielmi, the chief of communications for the Secret Service, said in response to Mr. Steggerda.

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