War of words heats up: RNC, Secret Service at odds over protest zone security risks

NOW: War of words heats up: RNC, Secret Service at odds over protest zone security risks

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- As the Republican National Convention approaches, a war of words is heating up over protest zones and security.

The RNC wants the current protest zone moved further away from the convention.

Meanwhile, protesters say they won't be contained by either of the proposals.

On Friday, May 24, we obtained a letter that was sent by attorneys representing the RNC and addressed to the director of the US Secret Service.

In the letter, they outlined their serious concerns with the current security perimeter.

But the Secret Service maintains their ongoing planning is safe.

The letter citing a "critical Flaw," "unacceptable risk," and a worsening climate sounds menacing as attorneys for the Republican National Committee warn of looming danger.

One passage said, "Your failure to act now to prevent these unnecessary and certain risks will imperil tens of thousands of Convention attendees."

But the Secret Service isn't buying it, saying in response, "Our model is designed to ensure the highest level of security."

For weeks, the RNC has pushed to move the protest zone further from Fiserv Forum.

But the Secret Service said demonstration zones are set by the host city, not them.

And further, "Publicly disclosing security information, as done in this letter, undermines our ability to maintain the integrity of our security plan."

The current protest zone is in Pere Marquette Park. Fiserv Forum is three-tenths of a mile away. But the RNC wants to move this protest zone even further away.

While the Secret Service says they are confident the current plan will offer the highest level of security, the RNC is concerned about foot traffic and attendees having to go past the protest zone. So, they want to move it to Zeidler Union Square Park.

That's about six-tenths of a mile from Fiserv Forum. That would effectively double the distance between the protesters and the convention hall.

Also in the letter: the RNC repeatedly cites Milwaukee's Coalition to March on the RNC 2024, saying "disturbing public statements" are meant to "foment turmoil at the Convention."

Omar Flores, a member of the coalition, said, "It's just totally out of character for our coalition." He added, "I think it shows our tactics are working because, honestly, we don't really care what they have to say about it."

The RNC quoted the Coalition in its letter as evidence of concerns, but organizers of the protest group invoked the January 6th insurrection while denying they would incite violence.

Flores said, "Look at what they applaud, essentially. I think we're looking in the wrong direction in terms of who might be causing violence."

Nonetheless, the Coalition is getting attention for its plans to march on the convention regardless of where the protest zone is set.

They want to be within sight and sound of Fiserv Forum. Since they say neither park offers that proximity, they've applied for a permit to gather at Red Arrow Park.

That permit is still pending, and they worry the city is intentionally stalling them out.

So, they are working with attorneys as the consider possible legal action.

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