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Controversy Erupts Over Security Measures and Protest Restrictions at Milwaukee’s Republican National Convention

Controversy Erupts Over Security Measures and Protest Restrictions at Milwaukee's Republican National Convention.

The security plan for the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee has sparked controversy among demonstrators who argue that the designated protest zones are too far removed from the Fiserv Forum, the main venue of the convention. The plan establishes two perimeters around the arena, with vehicles required to pass through checkpoints to travel between the two borders, while pedestrians will be allowed to move freely within the area but only convention-goers will be authorized to enter the inner perimeter.

The plan also prohibits weapons of any kind within the inner perimeter, except for those carrying guns openly or concealed, which is allowed under Wisconsin state law. However, Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman emphasized that the focus is on behavior, stating, “So, understand that there is going to be that level of surveillance and monitoring that that’s the particular right that you like to express. Just don’t do anything that could be considered a threat or harm to the public.” This statement has left many concerned about the level of surveillance and monitoring during the convention.

A coalition of local and national organizations, including the Coalition to March on the RNC, have planned a protest parade on the first day of the convention and have been attempting to secure a permit since April 2023 but have yet to receive approval. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the coalition, alleging that the delay in releasing a parade route constitutes a denial of the group’s free speech rights. The security plan establishes a parade route with a stage for speakers, just inside the outer perimeter, about five blocks from the arena.

Controversy Erupts Over Security Measures and Protest Restrictions at Milwaukee’s Republican National Convention.

City officials have also designated a stage for protest speakers on the northern edge of the perimeter, approximately a block from Fiserv Forum. While the city will provide a sound system for speakers, each speaker will be limited to 20 minutes to ensure everyone gets a chance to address the crowd. Omar Flores, a co-chair of the Coalition to March on the RNC, has accused city leaders of turning Milwaukee into a Republican playground and reiterated that coalition demonstrators will follow their own parade route, aiming to be within sight and sound of the Fiserv Forum’s main entrance.

The controversy surrounding the security plan and the parade route has raised concerns about the city’s handling of the convention and its impact on free speech and assembly. Many are worried that the restrictions on protest zones and speech are an attempt to silence dissenting voices and limit the right to assemble and express oneself. As the convention approaches, it remains to be seen how the city will balance the needs of those attending the convention with the rights of those seeking to express themselves in protest.

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