By now it’s a familiar ritual: tens of thousands of party operatives and reporters gather for several nights of confetti and draft beer in a mid-sized American city, while outside a smattering of true believer puppeteers, union members, and unruly anarchists roam around a deserted downtown, penned in by cops, the National Guard, and miles of fences. With the prominent exception of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York—where the arrests of 1,800 reporters, protesters, and bystanders ultimately cost city taxpayers more than $19 million in lawsuit payouts—the Republican and Democratic presidential nominating conventions have fallen into a predictable script in the last decade and a half. Those watching at home generally get a few headlines about “protesters clashing with police,” an arrest tally for the day, and prime-time speechifying, culminating in an acceptance speech by the long-anointed nominee.
However, like everything else about this election cycle, this year’s conventions are shaping up to be a bit more contentious than usual. Gothamist is going to be on the ground and in the arenas for both, and we figured we’d give you an idea of what to expect.
First, the basics. Very generally speaking, Cleveland, which is hosting the RNC, and Philadelphia, which is hosting the DNC, are both majority African-American, majority Democrat cities, and suffering from the economic ravages of deindustrialization, white flight, and disinvestment.
Both conventions are designated National Special Security Events, a category created by the federal government in 1998 that puts the Secret Service, FBI, and now the Department of Homeland Security in charge of managing security. It also loosens up tens of millions of dollars for toys such as armored vehicles, sound cannons, and stun guns for the local police department to keep.