Ron Johnson presses for Secret Service to push protest zone farther from GOP convention

Ron Johnson presses for Secret Service to push protest zone farther from GOP convention

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Sunday said he is urging the Secret Service to push the protest zone farther away from the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee in an effort to prevent conflict at the event.

“The Secret Service — they use their criteria, they set this plan — and now the director of Secret Service [is] saying, well, they have the authority to set the plan, they don’t have the authority to change it,” Johnson said in an interview on NewsNation’s “The Hill Sunday.”

“They put the protest zone a block away from the actual convention site. The initial plan had the entrances on the north and south side adjacent to that park. You know, there’s no control of that park. There’s no fences around it, so it’s a gathering site for all kinds of potential mayhem. So, this is a very obvious concern. It ought to be corrected,” Johnson said.

Johnson expressed his concerns with the head of Secret Service last week and said Sunday he would be “baffled” if the agency does not provide additional protection.

“You know, we saw the riots of 2020. We see [an] inflamed situation, the division being caused and pushed by, for example, President Biden. This is a serious security concern that could be addressed. I hope they address it,” he said.

Last month, the Republican National Committee (RNC) sent a letter to the Secret Service with the same concerns. The letter reportedly pointed to pro-Palestinian protests that have roiled college campuses for weeks.

Todd R. Steggerda, the letter’s author and counsel to the RNC, wrote the “forced proximity” between the groups and their “differing ideologies” will increase the risk of verbal or physical altercations.

The security plan proposed by the Secret Service would place protesters at Pere Marquette Park, a small public park that’s a quarter of a mile from the convention center, according to the letter.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sent a similar letter last week to Kimberly Cheatle, the director of the Secret Service, writing he is “deeply concerned” about the current security plan.

“As you know, this year has been a very challenging one for protests in the United States. We must all take seriously that tensions are high and do our best to balance the right to express dissent while also keeping Convention attendees as safe as possible,” McConnell wrote in his May 10 letter.

The RNC convention will take place July 15-18 in Milwaukee, Wis.

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