[guest post by Dana]
After the GOP convention was moved from North Carolina to Florida due to a conflict over safety measures, the event is now scheduled to take place in Jacksonville on Aug. 24-27. In the mean time, Florida remains a hot mess of Covid-19 cases. The state now has 53 hospitals without ICU beds. With that, Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams has expressed doubts about being able to provide necessary security at the convention next month:
As we’re talking today, we are still not close to having some kind of plan that we can work with that makes me comfortable that we’re going to keep that event and the community safe.
It’s not my event to plan, but I can just tell you that what has been proposed in my opinion is not achievable right now … from a law enforcement standpoint, from a security standpoint.
According to the report, the GOP has been slow to officially lock down the particulars for various events, which has made it difficult to plan for security:
Williams, a Republican, wouldn’t definitively say that there is no way the event could be held. But he said he had grave doubts about it, especially in an era of heightened protests concerning police use of force.
Williams said the event, scheduled for Aug. 24-27, was announced in June, giving his agency little time to plan and prepare. The Republican National Committee has not yet nailed down which convention events will be at which venues, making it more challenging. And a pledged $50 million grant has been paired back to $33 million and, Williams said, there are strings attached that make letting contracts too difficult.
And there is this:
In early July, the Florida Sheriffs Association asked departments in the state’s 67 counties for 2,000 officers… But only 500 were able to go, Bob Gualtieri, president of the association and Pinellas County Sheriff told POLITICO over the weekend. Williams also asked the Florida Police Chiefs Association for help, but he’s still coming up short.
“We do need law enforcement officers and we’ve gotten commitments, but not to the level that we thought we needed. And a lot of that is people having virus concerns from their communities, and I understand that,” Williams said.
“But there’s a lot of things that need to happen: an event schedule nailed down, and being able to sign contracts and spend money so that we can prepare for this event. And none of that has happened yet,” he said. “So here we are inside of 40 days, and I haven’t really pulled the trigger on anything RNC-related when it comes to finances or contracts and so, you know, only related to security, mind you, nothing, nothing related to any of this.”
According to Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who would rather there be no in-person convention, he knows that the president would not react well if told that, as things currently stand, there isn’t the necessary time to plan for adequate security, nor the necessary manpower to ensure the safety of those in attendance:
There’s a fear of telling him no because anyone who tells the president no, it’s like, off with their heads.
And while GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel assured Americans that the convention will be held in conjunction with input from the Florida State health officials, she made no mention of security concerns as recently as this past weekend:
So, we’re going to have a combination of testing and temperature checks and PPE, scaling things down, using more outdoor venues, and really putting the health and safety of the convention-goers first and foremost. But, also balancing that with a great celebration.
Because there will be a lot of people there — even with just the delegates that’s 2,500. The final night it will be the delegates, alternates, guests. It will be a big event for the president’s final speech. So, we think we’re putting the perfect blend of safety and health together with the opportunity to highlight why President Trump deserves another four years.
On a side note, Trump absurdly claimed during a telephone rally on Sunday night that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned him he would limit rally attendees in the arena at the convention to just “10 people”. Oh sure… This an arena that seats 19,000! Per Trump:
But Roy Cooper said you can’t have people meeting in a room. He actually told me the most you can have meeting — we have a 19,000-seat center as you know — and he said the most you can have is 10 people because that’s what the rules are, 10 people. He actually said that, I don’t know. I guess he meant it. He thought he could start negotiating from there, but he didn’t really want to negotiate. He wanted to give it up.
Today Cooper pushed back on the the president’s claims:
“That is incorrect,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter told CNN in an email on Monday, when asked about Trump’s claim.
“The Governor and state health officials worked with the RNC to safely hold their convention and asked for written plans for keeping attendees safe. Instead, beginning on Memorial Day, the President and RNC staff demanded a guarantee that they could hold a full convention without social distancing or face coverings. This was not a guarantee the Governor could make, particularly months in advance.”
Note: Cooper has imposed a general 10-person limit on indoor gatherings, and he publicly told Republican officials that the convention would need to be “scaled back” because of safety concerns. But Cooper’s spokesman said the governor never told Trump, Trump’s campaign or Republican officials that there could only be 10 people present in the arena.
Who’re you gonna believe?