McConnell asks Secret Service to widen security corden at GOP convention

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked the Secret Service to expand the security perimeter for the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee over the potential for conflict between protesters and Republican attendees. 

“I am deeply concerned about reports that the security perimeter around the Republican Convention site in Milwaukee may be creating a likely — and preventable — area of conflict between protestors and Convention attendees and delegates,” the Kentucky Republican wrote in a Friday letter to Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle. 

“As you know, this year has been a very challenging one for protests in the United States. We must all take seriously that tensions are high and do our best to balance the right to express dissent while also keeping Convention attendees as safe as possible,” he added. 

Republicans are concerned with the proximity of a park where protesters are expected to gather to the convention site. Getty Images

Tens of thousands of GOP delegates, guests and members of the media will descend on downtown Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum between July 15 and July 18 for the GOP’s presidential nominating convention, where former President Donald Trump will be formally announced as the party’s 2024 nominee for president. 

Former President Donald Trump will be formally nominated as the GOP nominee for president at the Milwaukee convention.

The main point of contention for McConnell and other Republicans is the designation of Pere Marquette Park in downtown Milwaukee as a “First Amendment Zone” for protesters to gather.

The park is just outside of the current Secret Service perimeter and would be passed by convention attendees who opt to walk to the arena, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

“While I am a strong proponent of First Amendment rights to assemble and speak, time-place-and-manner restrictions exist for a reason,” McConnell wrote. “In a potentially volatile situation like a major political convention, located downtown in a large city, it’s imperative that we balance the place of those First Amendment activities with the safety of Convention attendees — in particular preserving clear access points for the Convention.”

McConnell asked the Secret Service to push back the security perimeter for the event. Getty Images

The top Senate Republican’s letter was first reported by the Washington Post. 

McConnell’s missive was spurred by a heated meeting last week between senior GOP officials and Secret Service officials, during which the Secret Service refused to move the protest site further away from the convention venue or allow the Republican National Committee to meet with the director of the agency, according to the outlet

The Secret Service officials told the GOP delegation that there were no credible threats of violence and that moving the First Amendment zone further away could lead to lawsuits. 

The Secret Service told Republicans last week that there were no credible threats of violence and that moving the protest site back could lead to lawsuits. AFP via Getty Images

A spokesperson for the Secret Service told The Post that the convention security plan is “not a political matter” and is being coordinated in conjunction with several federal, state and local authorities.

“The development of the operational security plan for national special security events, to include the 2024 Republican National Convention, is overseen by an executive steering committee made up of Secret Service personnel on the ground, as well as representatives from other federal, state, and local agencies, who have the greatest understanding of the host city and the expected security environment for the event,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“The development of the security plan is based on security considerations, including risk and threat assessments, and is not a political matter,” the statement added.

“The U.S. Secret Service is confident in the security plan being developed, and appreciates the continued coordination from all involved partners in Milwaukee as we work together to focus on ensuring the highest level of safety and security for the convention.”

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