Security at the Sports Complex during the Democratic National Convention next month will include “no-scale fencing” to enclose the Wells Fargo Center and Xfinity Live!, the Secret Service special agent in charge said in an interview Thursday.
But exact boundaries of the security perimeter around the sports arena, where the convention will take place July 25-28, are not yet finalized, Special Agent James Henry told NBC10.com.
“We’re not quite there to talk about the perimeter yet,” Henry said. “We’re probably a couple weeks away from finalizing that. But expect some closures.”
For the second time in less than a year, Philadelphia is playing host to an event that brings with it the designation of National Special Security Event (NSSE). Last year's papal visit was hailed a success in the days and weeks after Pope Francis came to the city for a historic weekend. But it caused months of angst leading up to the event. Much of the unease settled around what became the planned shutdown of Center City to vehicle traffic.
Henry cautioned that the DNC is very different from the papal visit last September.
“This is not the papal visit. This is much smaller in scope and much smaller in scale. So the security footprint is going to be much smaller,” Henry said. “The impacts are really minimal. We’re fortunate the sports complex is more isolated, certainly than the papal visit in Center City.”
He noted that parts of South Broad Street, Pattison Avenue, and North 11th Street surrounding the Sports Complex will be intermittently closed during the DNC, and that ramps to and from Interstate 95 may close for short periods of time as well.
Planning for the DNC began shortly after Pope Francis left town, he said.
More than 20 subcommittees are examining, among other things, infrastructure, transportation, security, and crowd management, and involve dozens of government agencies.
Henry, who was the Secret Service’s second-in-command for the papal visit, said he could not speculate about the size of protests in the area surrounding the Wells Fargo Center.
FDR Park, which is across South Broad Street from the arena, has been designated a protest zone by the city. Pro-Bernie Sanders protesters have secured permits to demonstrate from Sunday through Thursday of the DNC week. In applying for those permits, protest organizers estimated up to 30,000 people could take part.
“We don’t generally give estimates or speculate on how many people are going to show up for a particular protest. That’s not what we do,” Henry said.
FDR Park will be outside of the security perimeter, Henry said, but he added that without going into specifics yet “the perimeter will not be any bigger than it needs to be.”
“It’s still in a little bit of flux,” he said. “Not unlike the papal visit, the perimeter was in a state of flux for, really, up until a couple weeks, if not even closer, to the event, before it was firmed up.”