Thousands of demonstrators are hoping to make their voices heard next month during the Republican and Democratic party conventions, but they will be kept at bay with the help of a nearly $100 million security budget for the events.
In downtown Cleveland, where Republican delegates are set to gather from July 18 to 21 to nominate Donald Trump as the party’s presidential candidate in November’s general election, some $50 million of federal funds will pay for miles (kilometers) of metal barriers and well-equipped police.
Only delegates, guests and journalists will be allowed inside the holiest of holies, a perimeter around the Quicken Loans Arena to be secured by the Secret Service.
– Anti-Trump –
The city has mapped a vast area of 3.3 square miles (8.5 square kilometers) where protests will be prohibited except in designated places.
Anti-racism activists, environmentalists and many other groups opposed to Trump will gather there to hold rallies and marches.
Echoing complaints during previous conventions, they say the designated areas are too remote. The authorities have authorized a single route for marches that passes almost 1,000 feet (300 meters) away from the convention venue and ends in an industrial zone.
“We don’t think that the first and the fourth amendments have to be thrown out the window in order to be secure,” said Christine Link, director of the Ohio branch of the American Civil Liberties Union rights group, referring to the right to freedom of speech and protection against unreasonable searches.
The long list of items to be prohibited inside the urban exclusion zone includes knives, air guns, drones, aerosol cans, coolers, large bags, even tennis balls.
However, handguns will be allowed in the outer event zone, in accordance with state law. Republican activists had pressed for firearms to also be allowed in the inner secure zone, but the Secret Service, which regulates that area, said guns won’t be allowed there.
Gun rights have long been a hot-button issue for conservative Republicans, who cite the US Constitution’s Second Amendment that guarantees the right to bear arms.
With or without permission, demonstrators across the country will converge on Cleveland to protest Trump’s candidacy.
Among them, anti-racism activist Susan Schnur — who is helping coordinate an unsanctioned march — says she is prepared for anything.
“If the young people are going to fight, I’ll support them all the way,” she said.
“If I get swept up (by police), so be it. I’m retired, I’ll have my meds with me and I’m all set.”
– Pro-Sanders –
For their part, Democratic delegates meeting several days later in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center from July 25 to 28 are expected to face hordes of Bernie Sanders supporters.
A day before the convention kicks off, a march of environmentalists and opponents of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is set to take place along with a pro-Sanders rally.
The Vermont senator, who trails presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — but technically remains in the race — may even participate…