As the American public waits to discover which candidate will be anointed the new royalty for the Democratic and Republican parties, the cities of Cleveland and Philadelphia are prepping their cities for an onslaught of angry activists. The activists are coming from across the country with diverse ideologies, goals, and solutions. The one commonality among these activists is that they are sick of the status quo.
With their disgust, anger, frustration, and hope, activists will descend on Cleveland from July 18 to 21 for the Republican National Convention, and Philadelphia from July 25 to 28 for the Democratic National Convention. If you happen to live in either of these cities or are planning on attending as media or as a protester, you may want to educate yourself on the toys that the Cleveland and Philadelphia Police Department’s will be putting into use.
The Washington Post recently reported on the $50 million “security grant” that will be used to increase security around the city of Cleveland. Officials are not revealing all of the security devices which will be in use, but Cleveland is believed to be in possession of a Long Range Acoustical Device, or LRAD. The device emits a non-lethal sound that causes extreme pain to the ears and forces protesters to flee. Veteran activists will remember the devices from recent protests at the NATO convention, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and G-20 in Pittsburgh.
It has also been reported that Cleveland will have thousands of sets of riot armor and 2,000Monadnock batons for officers. The city also requested 2,500 interlocking steel barriers from Tamis Corp., three horse trailers, 2,400 CamelBaks for hydration, 300 Volcanic Vx7 bicycles as well as 310 Bell Super bike helmets.
At least one state has opted out from participating in security for the RNC, citing officer safety. A police department in North Carolina decided against sending 50 officers to the convention over concerns that Cleveland was not ready to handle the protests. Deputy Chief Ed Tomba assured the city that Cleveland police are prepared. He also stated that Cleveland police will not automatically wear riot gear unless necessary. Tomba told Cleveland.com that the officers will not be required to wear body cameras, but said he was “very very confident that for any issue or interaction with law enforcement, we will have a documented record of it.”
According to Wired, local and federal officials will block off a 3.3 square-mile “city within a city” dubbed the “Event Zone.” Security within this zone will be provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Secret Service. Another area called the “Hard Zone” will be accessible only by those with proper credentials.
The city of Philadelphia will face a similar situation as the DNC comes to town. Philadelphia was awarded a grant from the Department of Justice at a cost of $43 million. The funds will go towards security devices similar to those in Cleveland and towards enclosing the Wells Fargo Center and Xfinity Live! Auditorium with a large wall using “no-scale fencing.” Exact boundaries of the security perimeter have not been released. Meanwhile, pro-Bernie Sanders protesters have been granted security permits and are estimating up to 30,000 participants.
Expect to see both cities turn into ghost towns in the areas closest to the conventions as businesses are forced to close down and locals vacate the area in anticipation of violent clashes. In 2012 I went to Tampa Bay, Florida to cover the protests outside the RNC. Tampa Bay faced a similar situation with militarized police and large fencing surrounding parts of the city. In fact, I was temporarily detained by agents of the Department of Homeland Security simply for walking alongside the fence and filming it.
If you plan to attend the conventions as a reporter or as an activist it’s best to bring protective gear (helmet, elbow pads), a bandana to wipe away tear gas, goggles, and ear protection. No joke. If the recent conflicts between the followers of the Republican and Democratic parties are any indicator of what we can expect at the conventions, it is going to be one wild ride. Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, more people will have begun to question the importance and necessity of the two-party system. Hopefully, after the conventions end and the election fades, even more awakened hearts and minds will be ready to create a world without the need for leaders.
Derrick is available for interviews.
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