WASHINGTON — The recent unrest around the country is prompting law enforcement officials to amp up security in Cleveland for next week’s Republican National Convention.
But there’s no reason for South Carolinian delegates to be too concerned, said Glenn McCall, RNC national committeeman representing South Carolina and vice chairman of the Committee on Arrangements, which handles convention logistics.
“I would say that security is going to be fine,” McCall said Tuesday. “Everything will be secure around the convention hall and we’ll have the authorities here, including Secret Service and other agencies.”
He added, “I am confident our delegates and guests will definitely feel secure.”
McCall cited Cleveland police’s handling of the citywide celebration of the Cavaliers’ National Basketball Association championship last month as proof local law enforcement is up to the task of mass crowd control.
McCall, who was also a member of the Arrangements Committee for the 2012 convention in Tampa, Fla., acknowledged that security concerns “have escalated” in the past four years. Terrorists have targeted cafes and music halls in France, airports in Turkey and an office building in California. A man with sympathies toward radical Islam committed the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history last month at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. And last week, two black men were shot and killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, La., and St. Paul, Minn., before five police officers were shot and killed by a sniper during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas.
There is also some concern about the size and scale of protests surrounding the impending nomination of Donald Trump at the head of the GOP presidential ticket. Both supporters of Trump and his opponents are expected to turn out in large numbers next week and many fear the confrontations could become ugly, as they have during campaign events elsewhere.
Again, McCall was not overly concerned.
“You always have protestors,” he said. “When we were at the RNC in 2004, there were over 100,000 protesters running around the city (New York) and around Madison Square Garden but never set out to do any harm to us as a result of that. The Secret Service and New York Police Department and others did a great job there, so I’m confident that will happen here, too.”
As far as the logistical nightmares that this year’s heightened security measures might create around Cleveland, South Carolina’s delegates are in a good spot: They are staying at a downtown hotel just a few minutes’ walk to the Quicken Loans Arena, where the official convention events are scheduled.
Delegates might face some inconveniences, however, in what they can bring into the arena. McCall said his understanding is that in some cases participants will be given clear plastic bags to tote their belongings.
Hope Walker, executive director of the S.C. Republican Party, also had this advice for members of the state’s contingent: “We suggest delegates, alternates and guests take basic precautions to protect their safety,” she said. “Those include not wearing an official convention credential while outside of the convention, not walking alone, and not engaging with protesters.”
Delegate Randy Page of Greenville said he isn’t expecting anything different than what he experienced during his first convention, in Tampa, in 2012. His takeaways are similar to Walker’s recommendations.
“We should stay together when we’re traveling outside,” Page said. “Keep credentials with us but perhaps not draw attention to ourselves.”
Emma Dumain is The Post and Courier’s Washington correspondent.