Government

Security ramping up for 19 presidential hopefuls coming to Cedar Rapids

Sunday event marks the biggest gathering of 2020 candidates so far

A staff member carries a stack of chairs at the 2015 Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration at the Cedar Rapids Convention Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, July 17, 2015. (The Gazette)
A staff member carries a stack of chairs at the 2015 Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration at the Cedar Rapids Convention Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, July 17, 2015. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — There won’t be snowplows blocking alleys or snipers in strategic spots.

But with 19 presidential hopefuls, their campaign staffs and supporters in downtown Cedar Rapids, there will be a security presence Sunday at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration.

Security for the 19 Democratic presidential hopefuls who say they’ll attend — the largest group assembled so far this campaign season — won’t rival that of a visit by a president or a presidential nominee. “But that doesn’t mean there won’t be security measures,” said Greg Buelow, Cedar Rapids public safety spokesman.

CEDAR RAPIDS - A whopping 19 presidential candidates will be in and around Cedar Rapids this weekend.

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In instances “when Secret Service is involved, there is extensive preplanning, measures like road closures and barricades, a perimeter around the place,” he said.

Outside the DoubleTree by Hilton, there may be a few parking restrictions, perhaps a street closure and likely a crowd of activists.

But the bulk of security measures will be inside, where about 1,400 ticket holders will hear from 19 of the candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Security always is a consideration for large-scale events such as the Hall of Fame event, but the need was reinforced by an incident last weekend at a gathering of California Democrats.

As U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., was discussing the gender pay gap, an animal-rights activist jumped on stage and grabbed a microphone to “bring your attention to a much bigger idea.”

To minimize the chances of that, plans call for a buffer zone between the front tables and the area where candidates will be speaking, according to the Democratic Party.

Some candidates, especially those in elected office, have their own security details. Governors often travel with at least one state trooper. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio travels with his own security, and some members of Congress have Capitol Police protection.

So far, Capitol Police have not reached out to the Cedar Rapids Police Department to say they need additional law enforcement resources, Buelow said. However, campaigns and the Iowa Democratic Party are working with Cedar Rapids police to hire off-duty officers to be inside the hall where the candidates will speak at the sold-out event.

“We expect them to pay,” Buelow said, referring to the Democratic Party. He said an extra-duty officer costs about $49 an hour. He wouldn’t say how many or how long those officers will be at the event.

“The goal is to provide a safe venue and event for the candidates and citizens who wish to participate in exercising their political freedoms,” Buelow said.

The Hall of Fame Celebration is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Doors open at 1.

In addition to candidate speeches — five minutes each — the party will honor volunteers, supporters and rising stars in the party.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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