Secret Service seeks security barriers for Democratic National Convention

Charlotte ObserverJuly 13, 2012 

Two miles of concrete barriers. More than five miles of 9-foot “anti-scale” steel fence.

Nearly eight miles of lightweight metal barriers, and portable vehicle barriers designed to withstand the impact of a 15,000-pound vehicle at 50 mph.

These are some of items the Secret Service is seeking to protect the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, according to a federal government contract request released this week.

The Secret Service’s proposal lists four Charlotte sites that will be secured for the convention, to be held Sept. 4-7.

Three of the sites are uptown: Time Warner Cable Arena, which will host the first two days of the DNC; Bank of America Stadium, the site of President Obama’s expected acceptance speech; and the Charlotte Convention Center, which will host the media.

The fourth site slated for concrete barriers and anti-scale fencing is an empty warehouse near Charlotte Douglas International Airport, at 3300 Oak Lake Boulevard. The Secret Service request doesn’t say who will use the building.

The federal government hasn’t yet released details on the security perimeter for the DNC. But the requests for fencing and barriers suggest that areas around convention sites will be heavily fortified.

Michael Smith, president of Charlotte Center City Partners, said he thinks most of uptown will still be open.

“There’s nothing that is a surprise,” Smith said. “Those are really finite footprints over center city. We want the center city to be open for business. I don’t think ordering miles of fencing is something that says the center city is closed.”

The city of Charlotte has made some decisions based on where the secure zones are expected to be.

The city has said it will relocate the main bus station across from the arena, to a temporary site at Mint and Third streets. The Lynx Blue Line will stop at the Stonewall station by the Westin hotel, though the trains may carry media, delegates and other convention personnel to the arena.

The city has also announced a designated parade/protest route that will allow permitted groups to march on city streets. That 1.2-mile route will begin at Pearl Street Park outside Interstate 277 and end at Marshall Park. It will allow protestors to march on South Caldwell Street, within two blocks of Time Warner Cable Arena.

Charlotte will also have a “free speech zone” or “speaker’s platform” in which people can protest with city provided amplification equipment. The city hasn’t said where that will be.

The DNC has said that uptown will host a family festival to kick off the convention on Labor Day, Sept. 3. It hasn’t said where the party will be.

Secret Service spokesman Max Milien declined to discuss specifics about security plans.

“Our goal is to minimize the impact on the city,” he said. “We have to weight the accessibility with our security procedures. We want to ensure that the residents and businesses are able to do what they can.”

Milien said officials will announce the security perimeter 4-6 weeks before the start of the convention, which would mean late this month or early August.

“While parts of Uptown may not look exactly the same, it will certainly be open for business,” said Suzi Emmerling, DNC press secretary in a statement to the Observer. “We encourage local residents to come participate in public activities, be part of history, and experience the energy the convention will bring as the Queen City hosts this historic event.”

Time Warner Cable Arena will be protected by nearly 11,000 feet of bike rack style barriers; nearly one mile of concrete barriers; additional barriers with fencing; and nearly two miles of 9-foot anti-scale fencing.

In addition, there will be 17 anti-climb vehicle gates and hydraulic bollards, to restrict vehicles from entering certain streets.

The Secret Service details some of the specifications it needs from its equipment.

For instance, some portable vehicle barriers must be able to meet a State Department requirement that it sustain a 15,000-pound vehicle at 50 mph. That standard is meant to protect embassies.

The empty warehouse near the airport is owned by Dilo Group, a German manufacturer. Employees at a neighboring Dilo-owned building said they didn’t know who was using the warehouse during the DNC.

The Secret Service information is labeled as “sensitive but unclassified.” It will pay for the security barriers and fencing.

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