Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Preparations for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, August 27 — 30, and for the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, NC, September 3 — 6 are in the final phase. Security is a legitimate and major concern, and law enforcement offices are doing their part, getting all riot geared and militarized.
But apparently the Department of Homeland Security was taken by surprise at how little time remains between now and the RNC’s gathering in Tampa. How else to explain that it was only last week that the DHS asked for bids to purchase riot gear for their officers who will be at the two conventions? From Tampa Bay Times:
In a request issued last week, Homeland Security officials sought bids for supplying 147 sets of riot helmets, upper body and shoulder protectors, shin guards and tactical gloves. The agency also wants to buy a few extra sets of forearm protectors and thigh and groin protectors.
The gear is to outfit officers of the Federal Protective Service, which guards federal buildings and facilities, for the Republican and Democratic national conventions, the 2013 presidential inauguration and other events, according to the request. Time is of the essence: Homeland Security asked bidders for a response within one day of the request being issued, and wants to take delivery within 15 days of the contract being awarded.
Given the geared up levels of security in general, from drones, to riot geared police, to construction of new spy centers, etc., isn’t it kind of odd that DHS would be scrambling with “rush” orders for events scheduled years out?
More from Susan Stabley at The Charlotte Business Journal:
I also found details on the site for a U.S. Secret Service request for a company that can provide ‘perimeter security asset management’ at both national conventions.
The federal government gave $50 million to both Tampa and Charlotte for convention security purposes. According to HuffPo, both Tampa and Charlotte police are being selective about what information they release regarding purchases made.
The Secret Service contends that the information is exempt from public scrutiny due to homeland security concerns … .
We do know, according to the same post, that
[Tampa has purchased] … seven Segways, 1,765 handheld radios, 163 vehicle-mounted radios, helmets, face shields and body armor. …
[Charlotte] …has released three pages showing how some of the money has been spent. About $1.7 million was used to upgrade space in its command center, and more than $131,000 was allocated to help expand and equip the department’s motorcycle unit. …
A NY Times says
The Tampa government has paid $57,000 to sublease a lot, which will be open to protesters 24 hours a day, a few hundred feet from the convention center.
Isn’t that nice of them, to provide such a welcoming space for protestors? What’s more, Tampa has an official “parade” or “march” route for groups of 50 or more, with neatly slotted 90-minute increments, for which activists must sign-up. A Tampa official said they were “a little baffled,” with only three of the 28 slots taken.
Numerous reports, including the HuffPo post, note that Tampa has enacted ordinances related to protests which ban everything from water guns to chains, though permitted firearms will be allowed.
Meanwhile, in Charlotte, a coalition of groups is planning Wall Street South actions, and it’s clear that Charlotte has its own ideas about how to keep activists from upsetting Convention goers.
On July 2, the City of Charlotte held their sham ‘Free Speech Lottery’ to issue permits for a speakers platform and march route that Occupy Charlotte called ‘a tour of Charlotte parking lots’ and ensures that those who march on this route will not be seen or heard by convention delegates or the bankers Uptown.
I couldn’t find any official Charlotte expressions of bafflement that some people are upset with such restrictions, though of course I could simply be missing it.
How large and how “controlled” the protests will be in both cities remains to be seen, but both conventions will likely provide the most Occupy and other protest “coverage” we’ve seen since Zuccotti Park and pepper spraying law enforcement officers. Which means we’ll also get to see officers and their new equipment on display, and probably in action. David Rosen, writing at AlterNet:
The … conventions … will probably witness the mass arrest of many American citizens assembling to exercise their First Amendment rights. …
A political convention is designated a National Special Security Event (NSSE), a category of state security originally established by President Clinton through a classified 1998 directive. …
In an effort to further restrict the rights of ordinary citizens to assemble, the Congress, with bipartisan zeal, moved with speed and stealth to outlaw OWS-types … assemblies on federal property. In March 2012, President Obama signed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011 … .
Don’t you love the word games? “Improvement” as a euphemism for “control and restrict.”
The need for security is obviously real. The necessity of balancing that with First Amendment rights is also real. The list of indications that police departments are being militarized, that questions of “police state” are grounded in facts, is long and growing. One more indication, perhaps, is that the Military stands ready if needed at RNC, other conventions.
The efforts in Tampa and Charlotte will be met with resistance, of course. Jim Hightower writes about that in Protecting Political Insiders from Our First Amendment.
The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it’s conformity. What makes America great are courageous folks … who refuse to go along with authoritarians and elites who always demand that we surrender our most basic liberties to protect them from speech they don’t want to hear.