Washington — The shooting deaths of three police officers in Baton Rouge heightened tensions at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Monday, whose opening day theme is “Make America Safe Again.”
Some Connecticut delegates have questions about security, said Rep. John Frey, R-Ridgefield, who has attended several meetings on convention security plans and will attend many more.
Frey is one of 28 Connecticut delegates to the convention and one of three sergeants-at-arms responsible for security inside the convention center, which is expected to hold up to 50,000 people.
Frey, and National Committeewoman Pat Longo, spoke to the Connecticut delegates at their hotel breakfast meeting Monday morning about what to expect this week.
Frey said he reassured the delegates who had questions about security that they would be safe inside the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, where the GOP convention is being held.
“I think it’s the safest place in the country,” he said.
Yet after suspect Gavin Long shot six police officers and police deputies in Baton Rouge on Sunday, three of them fatally, security has been ramped up at the arena, Frey said.
“Everybody is going to be a little bit sharper,” Frey said. “But we’ve already planned for the worst.”
The terrorist attack in Nice already had prompted convention organizers to tighten security, as has the prospect of dozens of protests that have been planned outside the security perimeter of the convention.
Before Sunday’s shooting, Longo said she had security concerns about the convention, especially since Black Lives Matter had planned protests outside the arena.
But it was the Baton Rouge shootings that prompted the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association to ask Ohio Gov. John Kasich for an emergency suspension of the state’s open-carry law for the duration of the Republican National Convention.
“Open carry” gun laws in Ohio allow for licensed firearm owners to wear their weapons in public, with the exception of a small “secure zone” inside and around the Quicken Loans Arena.
Kasich said he did not have the authority to suspend the open carry law. In a statement, his office said, “Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested.”
Convention organizers were given a $50 million federal grant for event security. About 5,500 law enforcement officers – local, state and federal – are being deployed this week to provide security at the convention.
Also, in a departure from past national political conventions, journalists, vendors and others are required to have Secret Service clearance to have access to certain areas in the arena.