Philadelphia, state, federal forces will ensure DNC safety, Kenney assures

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A police officer arrives down the street after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at the Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando

A police officer arrives down the street after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at the Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando

In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, over the weekend, Philadelphia officials are trying to reassure residents and attendees that the upcoming Democratic National Convention here will be safe.

Mayor Jim Kenney said the city will do whatever is necessary to secure every major event, including the convention and international events such as the Copa America soccer match that ends Tuesday.

“The Secret Service is the lead security organization with the DNC, working closely with the Philadelphia Police Department, state police, FBI, Homeland Security,” Kenney said. “I think there will be enough folks available and knowledgeable to keep people safe.”

The DNC is expected to bring about 50,000 people to Philadelphia the last week of July.  While the convention itself will take place at the Wells Fargo sports arena in South Philadelphia, many related events will be held at bars and restaurants across the city, as well as the Pennsylvania Convention Center downtown.

Convention CEO, the Rev. Leah Daughtry, could not give specific security information, but said her team has been meeting regularly with federal, state and local law enforcement to make sure the large crowds will be safe.

“I’m sure that the tragedy in Orlando will be on all of our minds when we have our next meeting,” she said. 

Asked whether the potential for mass shootings is specifically discussed during these meetings, Daughtry said the group does “not run through every possible scenario that could possibly happen.”

“I think that’s a little bit morbid,” she said. “Really, from the beginning, during the bid phase, when we are looking at cities, on the site selection team we have someone whose expertise is security, so we can be thinking of that before we even choose a city.”

Like last summer’s papal visit, the DNC is a National Security Special Event, meaning the U.S. Secret Service is in charge of security at the convention. In an interview with NBC10 last week, Special Agent James Henry said the Wells Fargo Center and XFinity Live! will be enclosed within “no-scale fencing,” although the agency is not yet making public the bounds of the security perimeter. Those with credentials to enter the arena, including delegates and members of the media, will need to go through magnetometers at checkpoints.

The “protest zone” at FDR Park, across the street from the sports complex, will be outside the security perimeter. 

The Philadelphia Police Department will be responsible for securing all other parts of the city during the event, Daughtry said. The department did not respond to a request for comment.

Brian Abernathy, the city’s first deputy managing director, said he was not in a position to say whether security plans for the DNC would be altered in the wake of the Orlando massacre.

“Our security plans were always fairly intense,” he said. “Certainly, this is going to be part of the conversation.”

Tom MacDonald contributed to this report. 

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