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Secret Service head says RNC security plans not final as protesters allege free speech restrictions

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Secret Service head says RNC security plans not final as protesters allege free speech restrictions
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Secret Service head says RNC security plans not final as protesters allege free speech restrictions

2024-06-07 01:59 Last Updated At:02:01

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The head of the U.S. Secret Service said Thursday that security plans for the Republican National Convention are still being determined as protesters blasted restrictions they claimed will violate free speech with just weeks until the event.

Roughly 30,000 visitors are expected in Milwaukee next month when former President Donald Trump is slated to become the Republican party’s official presidential nominee. Largescale demonstrations are expected, but how close protesters will be allowed to the downtown Fiserv Forum convention site is up in the air. Top RNC officials have expressed safety concerns and protesters have sued the city of Milwaukee over rules laying out where demonstrations will be allowed.

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FBI special agent Michael Hensle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The head of the U.S. Secret Service said Thursday that security plans for the Republican National Convention are still being determined as protesters blasted restrictions they claimed will violate free speech with just weeks until the event.

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. At left is FBI special agent Michael Hensle. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. At left is FBI special agent Michael Hensle. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle said law enforcement agencies have been making safety plans for more than a year, including working with businesses on potential impact and creating a secure zone around the convention site. She said further details would come in two weeks.

“We’re fully prepared,” she told reporters at a briefing with Milwaukee police and fire officials. “We realize that there most likely will be demonstrations but we’re prepared to address those.”

Cheatle said she is in communications with RNC officials but sidestepped direct questions about their safety concerns. RNC leaders have sent a letter to the Secret Service asking officials to keep protesters back farther from the site than had been originally planned, arguing that an existing plan “creates an elevated and untenable safety risk to the attending public.”

In March, the Milwaukee Common Council unanimously approved rules that, among other things, requires people protesting within the convention’s general security zone to march a specified route. But the route and other details regarding demonstration sites aren’t yet public.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s spokesman Jeff Fleming said the city hosted online signups for groups to demonstrate and more than 70 groups have done so. He said final details will come within weeks.

“Milwaukee has few restrictions on demonstrations throughout the city — so if a group wants to hold up signs and chant on a street corner a few blocks from the convention location, the city will make reasonable accommodations,” he said.

The Coalition to March on the RNC, which makes up dozens of organizations, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit over the ordinance on Wednesday. They allege Milwaukee’s rules governing parade and protest activity violate the First Amendment by unlawfully limiting where protesters can parade and exercise their right to free speech.

“Milwaukee has been rolling out the red carpet for the Republican National Convention and all its attendees, spending millions on their security,” Tim Muth, a staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement Thursday. “But sadly, the city does not appear to demonstrate that same commitment to protecting the First Amendment rights of people who want to express opposing views on the streets of Milwaukee during the RNC.”

Fleming said the city is “fully prepared to answer the court filings” and has operated in good faith with the organizations involved.

Earlier this week, Cheatle was in Chicago for a security briefing on the Democratic National Convention, which the city will host in August. More visitors — roughly 50,000 — and protests are expected. Protesters there have voiced similar concerns about restrictions and filed lawsuits. Chicago police say they're prepared to handle crowds and are undergoing specialized training in de-escalation and First Amendment issues.

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman said officers were ready for the RNC and will get help from law enforcement agencies in other cities and the National Guard if needed.

“This particular event, to us, is nothing different than any other event that’s gone on in the city of Milwaukee,” he said.

FBI special agent Michael Hensle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

FBI special agent Michael Hensle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. At left is FBI special agent Michael Hensle. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle speaks during a Republican National Convention security news conference Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Milwaukee. At left is FBI special agent Michael Hensle. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

WOODSTOCK, England (AP) — Leaders from across Europe gathered at a grandiose English country mansion on Thursday for a summit clouded by worries about whether the United States would remain a reliable ally if Donald Trump wins a second presidency.

Newly elected U.K. Prime Minister Keir Starmer welcomed some 45 heads of government to discuss migration, energy security and the threat from Russia as he seeks to restore relations between the U.K. and its European Union neighbors four years after their acrimonious divorce.

Starmer told the European Political Community gathering that the U.K. plans to take a more active role on the world stage, especially when it comes to Ukraine's fight against Russia’s invasion and to people-smuggling gangs organizing irregular migration.

He told fellow leaders that under his government the U.K. would be “a friend and a partner, ready to work with you — not part of the European Union, but very much part of Europe. Not focused on the differences between us, but on the values that we share."

“Our first task here today is to confirm our steadfast support for Ukraine, to unite once again behind those values that we cherish and to say we will face down aggression on this continent together,” he said, adding that the threat from Russia “reaches right across Europe.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a key guest at the meeting, aimed at shoring up Europe’s support for his country’s defense and discussing ways to defend democracy. The U.K. accuses Moscow of seeking to undermine European democracies with cyberattacks, disinformation and sabotage.

When Britain agreed earlier this year to hold the one-day summit, Conservative leader Rishi Sunak was prime minister. His defeat in a July 4 election means it’s Starmer who welcomed leaders to Blenheim Palace, a Baroque country house that was the birthplace of World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

“It’s an incredibly useful occasion for Keir Starmer, because it gives him the chance to get to know a lot of European leaders,” said Jill Rutter, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Government think tank. “It’s like Rishi Sunak organized a dating party for him.”

The guest list includes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

The meeting is the fourth for the EPC group, a brainchild of Macron. It was established in 2022 as a forum for countries both inside and outside the 27-nation EU after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine shattered Europe’s sense of security. Previous meetings of the group have been held in the Czech capital, Prague; Chisinau, Moldova; and Granada, Spain.

The U.K. hopes this will be the best-attended summit to date, though EU chief Ursula von der Leyen stayed away as she fights to secure a second term as European Commission president from lawmakers in the European Parliament. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also a no-show.

Starmer’s center-left government aims to rebuild ties with the EU strained by years of ill-tempered wrangling over Brexit divorce terms. A key priority is a new U.K.-EU security pact that Starmer hopes to strike soon.

“We are confident that a new chapter will be opened with the U.K.,” European Council President Charles Michel said as he arrived.

The U.K. plans to work more closely with the European police agency Europol against people smuggling, part of measures to beef up border security following Starmer’s decision to scrap the Conservatives’ contentious and unrealized plan to send migrants arriving in the U.K. by boat on a one-way trip to Rwanda.

Delegates gathered at Blenheim Palace, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of London, will be treated to full British hospitality, including strawberries with cream and a reception hosted by King Charles III.

Many thoughts will likely stray to the U.S., where the weekend assassination attempt on Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, underscored how febrile and polarized politics has become ahead of the Nov. 5 election.

Trump’s skepticism about NATO has long worried U.S. allies. Trump’s choice of Sen. JD Vance, an opponent of U.S. military aid to Ukraine, as vice presidential running mate has heightened concerns.

“European countries must stand on their own legs more than ever,” said Netherlands Prime Minister Dick Schoof.

That sentiment was echoed by several other leaders, but not by Hungary's pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has riled other EU nations with a series of rogue meetings with foreign leaders about Ukraine, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Orban said a Trump victory would be “the best news for everybody, because he's a man of the people.”

Associated Press journalist Sylvain Plazy in Brussels contributed to this story.

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, right, gestures as he speaks during the first plenary session, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, at the European Political Community meeting in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Pool)

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, right, gestures as he speaks during the first plenary session, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, at the European Political Community meeting in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Pool)

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, right, gestures as he speaks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, before the start of the first plenary session at the European Political Community meeting in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Pool)

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, right, gestures as he speaks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, before the start of the first plenary session at the European Political Community meeting in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Pool)

Britain's Prime minister Keir Starmer, centre, makes remarks at the opening plenary session during the European Political Community meeting at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. From the left is the Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Prime Minister of Britain Keir Starmer, Charles Michel President of the Council of Europe and President of Moldova Maia Sandu (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Pool)

Britain's Prime minister Keir Starmer, centre, makes remarks at the opening plenary session during the European Political Community meeting at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. From the left is the Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Prime Minister of Britain Keir Starmer, Charles Michel President of the Council of Europe and President of Moldova Maia Sandu (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Pool)

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, right, gestures as he speaks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, before the start of the first plenary session at the European Political Community meeting in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Pool)

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, right, gestures as he speaks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, before the start of the first plenary session at the European Political Community meeting in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Pool)

President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

Prime Minister of the Netherlands Dick Schoof arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/PA via AP, Pool)

Prime Minister of the Netherlands Dick Schoof arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/PA via AP, Pool)

Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban gestures as he arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban gestures as he arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives at the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP, Pool)

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives at the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP, Pool)

Britain's Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer, right, greets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

Britain's Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer, right, greets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, is welcomed by Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer, right, to the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP, Pool)

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, is welcomed by Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer, right, to the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP, Pool)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

The President of France Emmanuel Macron listens to British Prime Minister Keir Starmer during the first plenary session at the European Political Community meeting in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England , Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Pool)

The President of France Emmanuel Macron listens to British Prime Minister Keir Starmer during the first plenary session at the European Political Community meeting in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England , Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Pool)

Britain's Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer, right, greets France's President Emmanuel Macron as he arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

Britain's Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer, right, greets France's President Emmanuel Macron as he arrives to attend the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Jacob King/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, right, speaks during the first plenary session, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, at the European Political Community meeting in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England , Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Pool)

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, right, speaks during the first plenary session, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, at the European Political Community meeting in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England , Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Pool)

FILE - A view of Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, March 24, 2009. Leaders from across Europe gather at an English country mansion on Thursday, July 18, 2024, for a summit overshadowed by worries about whether the United States will remain a reliable ally if Donald Trump secures a second presidency. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP, File)

FILE - A view of Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, March 24, 2009. Leaders from across Europe gather at an English country mansion on Thursday, July 18, 2024, for a summit overshadowed by worries about whether the United States will remain a reliable ally if Donald Trump secures a second presidency. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP, File)

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