JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – President Trump’s campaign responded Tuesday to Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams’ announcement that he’s not comfortable with the security plan for the Republican National Convention in August and cannot assure the safety of the community as the plan stood.
Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for the Trump Campaign, said that no other city is being considered to host the event.
“Jacksonville is where we’re going to be,” Murtaugh said in an interview on CNN.
Murtaugh said Jacksonville has a lot of experience with providing security for large-scale events.
“On Sundays in the fall with the Jacksonville Jaguars, they pack 70,000 people into a football stadium,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they can handle security at an event like the RNC in their city.”
Undersheriff Pat Ivey, with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, spoke during Mayor Lenny Curry’s news briefing, which occurred hours before Murtaugh’s television interview. Ivey said the two things cannot be compared.
“I’ve heard the analogies of how come you can have a Jaguars game with 70,000 people and there are no issues, but you’re going to have an RNC and your probably max day would not have that much attend one of the events? It’s apples and oranges,” Ivey said.
The undersheriff said that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office developed a plan more than 20 years ago in reference to handling Jaguars games and that “it’s pretty much plug and play.” Ivey said there are only a few variables, including who’s the opposing team.
“But your security plan is set. This is a distinctly different animal,” said Ivey. “What happens in this is the constant evolving of venues, the venues changed because of COVID and rightfully so, some concerns with social distancing, so they started moving outside. With that, the plan changes. For the security plan to be solid, you allot for those changes. That personnel number is in the thousands that we asked for, which is right on point with other jurisdictions that have had this exact event.”
Murtaugh acknowledged the two events are different, but said that’s why Jacksonville will have access to a $30 million grant from the Department of Justice because the RNC is designated as a national security event.
“Jacksonville has great experience with large scale events, larger than this one,” said Murtaugh. “An NFL football game crowd is a lot larger than what’s going to be packed into the RNC convention arenas. The $30 million of DOJ funds that Jacksonville will have access to will go an awful long way to easing the sheriff’s mind, we believe.”
Ivey reiterated what Williams said Monday, that currently they have a commitment for 25% of what’s needed to handle the RNC.
“When you bring in personnel, you’ve got to have hotel rooms, meals, provide for them. This is a much bigger animal than I think most people want to realize,” Ivey said. “Not that we’re not up for a challenge. The reality is, there’s a timeline. That’s why there’s been an 18-month timeline historically with every entity that’s had to deal with these. That’s the biggest challenge.”
Murtaugh said there continues to be work with state and local authorities to ensure safety and that the campaign is looking forward celebrating President Trump’s renomination.
“We know the local police will have the resources they need to see that everybody is safe,” Murtaugh said.