2014 Archives

Hosting GOP convention would pose big security challenges for Dallas


The following is from the March 20, 2014, edition of The Dallas Morning News. SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

March 25, 2014

Staff Writer

St. Paul, Minn., police knew the deal: They’d get the civic benefits of the 2008 Republican National Convention, but they’d get the protesters, too.

Yet after all the planning they did, authorities there didn’t initially realize that some of the demonstrators weren’t just there to be heard.

“Our idea was to allow them to do what Americans get to do: demonstrate and voice their opinion,” St. Paul Senior Commander Joe Neuberger said recently. “But it became apparent to us that that’s not what they were there to do. They were there to cause mayhem and commit crimes.”

Clashes with violent protesters led to more than $25,000 of damage to downtown businesses and property. Still, Neuberger said the convention was well worth the trouble and ended as a huge success for St. Paul.

Officials are pitching Dallas to the GOP on Friday as a 2016 host city, and former police officials say the city’s police force might be more well-equipped than their counterparts in St. Paul and Tampa, Fla., were during the past two Republican conventions. But years of planning, training and coordination are required to minimize security risks. . .

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said modern conventions always have a stain of battles between law enforcement and protesters.

But he said Dallas officials are going to be zealous with enforcement because they are acutely aware of how a mishap could bring the old emotions tied to the Kennedy assassination back to the fore.

“Dallas is, as a result of its history, extraordinarily careful and will overdo the security,” Jillson said. “If something dramatic were to happen on the negative side, I do think that Dallas’ old reputation would be given new life.”

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