Officials prepare for convention security here

Posted: March 25, 2016

With Republican National Convention organizers in Cleveland putting out bids for riot gear, their Democratic counterparts here remain mum on security details.

Democratic National Convention organizers on Wednesday gave an update four months out from the July 25 to 28 event, and said they intended to be overprepared. They stopped short of offering specifics.

"Everyone's predicting trouble in Cleveland, and there may be trouble because of the political situation, but you prepare for everything," former Gov. Ed Rendell, the convention host committee chair, said at the briefing on preparations.

Cleveland wants to use a portion of a $50 million federal security grant for gear, according to a request for bids on the city's website. The request came as GOP front-runner Donald Trump predicted riots if he was denied his party's nomination.

Philadelphia also has applied for a $50 million federal security grant, according to city spokesman Mike Dunn.

Dunn said the money would go toward staffing and equipment.

"Given that the expenditures involve security, we cannot be more descriptive than that," Dunn said. "We can say that Philadelphia's needs are different than Cleveland's. We have a far larger police force and regularly handle major events, including, most recently, the papal visit."

Comcast Corp. executive David L. Cohen, a special adviser to the host committee, said 90 percent of what the city prepares for will, it is hoped, never come to pass. He should know, having played a significant role in preparing for the Republican National Convention here in 2000.

"A lot of the planning that you are seeing in Cleveland is also happening here," Cohen said. "I think that's as far as I want to go at this point."

Cohen reiterated that unlike the widespread papal security, security for the convention will be localized and more constrained.

"We're going to have a flawless security plan that does not interfere with the ability of the citizens of Philadelphia going about their daily business," he said, "that gives protesters their ability to protest but that also . . . gives the party the ability to put on a convention to nominate their presidential candidate."

Rendell said Philadelphians should not change their regular habits the week of the convention. The convention runs from 6 to 11 p.m. each night at the Wells Fargo Center, so for those not attending, nabbing a table for dinner downtown could be easy, he said.

That's not to say there will be tables available at every restaurant.

Rendell had dinner at Parc on Rittenhouse Square on Tuesday and got a taste of things to come.

"The manager told me that they already have all four days booked from 3 to 7 p.m.," Rendell said, referring to the convention week.


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