Senators Push for Secret Service to Move Protests Away From G.O.P. Convention


The director of the Secret Service met on Tuesday with Senate Republicans to discuss the party’s effort to push the expected protesters farther from the site of the Republican National Convention, set for July in Milwaukee.

Republican officials and lawmakers have objected to the placement of a designated demonstration zone near the convention venue, arguing it would create conflict between protesters and attendees. A lawyer for the Republican National Committee proposed in a letter in late April that the Secret Service expand the security perimeter around the venue, the Fiserv Forum.

The meeting came at the request of Senator Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, who warned in a letter on Friday of “a potentially volatile situation” and “a likely — and preventable — area of conflict” between attendees and demonstrators at the convention, where the party is set to officially make Donald J. Trump its 2024 presidential nominee.

“As you know, this year has been a very challenging one for protests in the United States,” Mr. McConnell wrote, referring to a recent wave of pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses. “We must all take seriously that tensions are high and do our best to balance the right to express dissent while also keeping convention attendees as safe as possible.”

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, said in an interview with local television in Milwaukee that he was one of the senators who met with Kimberly A. Cheatle, the director of the Secret Service.

“I found it a little frustrating,” Mr. Johnson said on Fox6 News Milwaukee, adding that “she basically said she does not have the authority to change their assessment, and they based it on their criteria that they’ve been using for years. And as a result, doesn’t sound like she can change anything.”

Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Secret Service, confirmed that Ms. Cheatle “briefed members of the U.S. Senate” about the security plan for the convention, adding that the security perimeter was “based on security considerations, including protective intelligence, risk and threat assessments, and is developed to ensure the highest level of security, while minimizing impacts to the public.”

The Secret Service has also said the security plan for the convention was developed and approved by a larger committee of city, state and federal agencies.

Under the proposed security plan, according to the R.N.C., protesters would be confined to Pere Marquette Park, a small public park on the bank of the Milwaukee River about a quarter of a mile from Fiserv Forum, the arena where the convention will take place. That park is adjacent to the two streets designated as the main routes to get the convention, and the Republican National Committee has argued that forcing attendees to pass by the protesters would heighten tensions and cause confrontation.

Republicans have cited the recent campus protests, and Mr. Johnson on Tuesday mentioned the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in 2020, as well as the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

A group known as the Coalition to March on the RNC has been organizing convention demonstrations. Posts on social media promoting the demonstrations suggest that in Milwaukee they would be protesting Republican policies on the war in Gaza, abortion rights and climate change, among other issues.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

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