Denver Prepares For Upcoming Democratic Convention
Federal and local authorities are girding for huge protests, mammoth traffic tie-ups and civil disturbances at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this month, fearing that the convention will become a magnet for militant protest groups.
Officials say that what makes Denver different than past conventions is the historic nature of Senator Barack Obama’s nomination, an event whose global spotlight could draw tens of thousands of demonstrators, including self-described anarchists who the police fear will infiltrate peaceful protest groups to disrupt the weeklong event.
According to the New York Times, the Secret Service is wary of discussing threats against the people they protect, but with Obama poised to become the first black presidential nominee, there are special worries. While law enforcement officials say there are no specific, credible threats against Obama, they expressed concern.
“The magnitude of the event has expanded,” says John W. Hickenlooper, the mayor of Denver. “It’s bigger and more profound than we expected.”
Officials acknowledge that their projections for the number of protesters are based more on a worst-case chain of events than specific information about who will show up, but they say they cannot take any chances.
As a result, the Secret Service, the Pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and scores of police departments are moving thousands of agents, analysts, officers and employees to Denver for the Aug. 25-28 convention. They will operate through a complex hierarchy of command centers, steering committees and protocols to respond to disruptions.
National political conventions are a chance for federal agencies to test their latest and most sophisticated technology, and this year is no different. There was a brief flare-up recently between the F.B.I. and the Secret Service, when each wanted to patrol the skies over the convention with their surveillance aircraft, packed with infrared cameras and other electronics. The issue was resolved in favor of the Secret Service, the New York Times reports.
Both Denver and St. Paul, where the Republican National Convention will be held Sept. 1-4, are enlisting thousands of additional officers to help with security. Even so, their numbers will be only about a third of the 10,000 police officers that New York City fielded for the 2004 Republican convention.