BOSTON — Although terrorism prevention will remain the primary concern of Capitol Police officers deployed to the upcoming Republican National Convention, Chief Terrance Gainer said the department is also preparing to avert possible attacks on individual lawmakers by protesters.
While in Boston last week to oversee department operations at the Democratic National Convention, Gainer said his force is “concerned but not panicked” about the potential for protests or possible attacks on lawmakers attending the gathering.
“This issue about New York is there will probably be a lot more protesters,” Gainer said.
Thousands of protesters are expected to descend on the city during the week of Aug. 30, organized by umbrella groups such as the RNC Not Welcome Project and CounterConvention.Org. According to the the New York Police Department, at least a dozen groups were expected to apply for permits to hold protests by the July 30 deadline.
Although law enforcement officials had anticipated large-scale protests during the Democratic convention, those crowds failed to materialize. In fact, according to the Boston Police Department, only six convention-related arrests occurred during the five-day period ending July 30.
While the convention remained relatively quiet — Gainer described the week as “a hiccup” in some respects — he nonetheless said: “This is a pretty good test.”
Gainer said the department, which is considering increasing the number of law enforcement personnel it had originally intended to deploy to New York, could also revise its security plan for the Republican event.
“We’re going to have to re-examine where Members are staying,” Gainer said, noting that lawmakers may be dispersed in many more hotels in New York than in Boston.
Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle, a member of the Capitol Police Board, said last week the department could also make changes based on an internal critique of its performance in Boston.
“Based on the lessons we’ve learned here, we will adjust and tweak plans for New York,” Pickle said.
Despite concerns over protest-related incidents, however, Gainer said the primary focus will remain on the potential terrorist threat.
“Our major concern is whether terrorists … will try to do some harm,” Gainer said.
Security efforts at the Republican convention, classified as a “National Special Security Event” by the Homeland Security Department earlier this year, will be led by the Secret Service.
Secret Service spokesman Tom Mazur declined to comment on the expected protests.
“Those estimates are always fluid in nature, so our preparations are ongoing and we’re confident we’ll be prepared,” Mazur said.