, ,

General security zone for RNC in downtown Milwaukee announced

The US Secret Service will announce specific details of security zone in coming months

The Fiserv Forum has signage for the debate on the walls.
Reporters are set up outside of the Fiserv Forum before the Republican presidential primary debate Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Downtown Milwaukee residents and businesses will have to deal with extra security measures during the Republican National Convention this summer.

Much of downtown will be enveloped in a security perimeter during the event, which is expected to draw 50,000 people to the city from July 15-18. 

The U.S. Secret Service released a diagram of the area, called a “General Impact Map,” on Wednesday morning. The zone takes in an area that stretches about 10 blocks from West Clybourn Street on the south to Cherry Street on the north, and about eight blocks from North Water Street on the east to North 9th Street on the west.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Along with Fiserv Forum, the site of many of the RNC events, the zone takes in hotels, apartment buildings, businesses and schools, including Milwaukee Area Technical College.

During a press conference, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said the U.S. Secret Service will share specific street closures, parking restrictions and security checkpoint details with the public in the coming months.

“What it (map) does show, though, is the likely area that will be impacted in some way,” Johnson said.

The zone covers a similar area to that planned for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which ultimately moved to a virtual event because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the U.S. Secret Service said the security plan for the convention, which will include the specific security perimeter, is still “in development.” The agency said the general impact map was shared to “help members of the public prepare for the upcoming convention by providing them with initial information on whether their home, business, or commute could potentially be affected by the security plan.”

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson announces the general security perimeter map during a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. Evan Casey/WPR

Businesses, residents and schools make accommodations

Milwaukee will be in the national spotlight during the event and is expected to see $200 million in economic impact from the convention. Hotels from Janesville to Sheboygan to Madison will likely be booked up.

But the convention will likely impact the lives of residents who live and work in the city.

“As far as residents go, if you can plan a vacation during that week, it’s probably not a bad idea,” said Milwaukee Alder Bob Bauman, whose district includes downtown Milwaukee.

Jeff Fleming, a spokesperson for the mayor, said people can still access their homes and apartments during the days of the convention if they go through the necessary security checkpoints.

An access plan for commercial delivery access, mail and trash will also be developed by the U.S. Secret Service. 

“Businesses can remain open, but they may choose to modify their operations,” Fleming wrote in an email. 

Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee
Morry Gash/AP Photo

Milwaukee Area Technical College, which is located across the street from the Fiserv Forum, is closing its campus for classes and services from July 13-20. College spokesperson Darryll Fortune said that’s because of heavy traffic, closed streets and the heightened security around the campus. 

“The college is working to address impacts on both classes and services for students, including relocating these as appropriate to other locations during the RNC,” Fortune said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Milwaukee School of Engineering, which has its main campus right outside of the general impact map, said it’s still deciding whether or not to make any changes to campus operations during the event.

At least a dozen sailboats float off the shore of Milwaukee. The city's skyline is in the background.
This Aug. 13, 2020 photo shows the skyline of downtown Milwaukee. Carrie Antlfinger/AP Photo

A Frequently Asked Questions page on the Visit Milwaukee website said the city is “open for business” during the convention.

“No businesses will be asked to close during the event and we encourage everyone to come downtown and experience the excitement of the event,” the webpage said. 

3rd Street Market Hall, a food hall in downtown Milwaukee, is within the general impact area. Omar Shaikh, co-owner of the food hall, said he hopes the convention will be good for business.

“We hope to book it out, that’s the whole goal,” Shaikh said. 

But Shaikh said he still has questions about what to expect when it comes to security. 

“I have a lot of questions to ask myself, in terms of how this is all going to work. How do we get employees in and out?” Shaikh said. 

Mayor Johnson is encouraging tourists and people from across the region to visit Milwaukee during the week of the convention. But he urged visitors to be aware of what to expect. 

“We are hosting a national security event here and folks ought to be cognizant of that fact,” Johnson said. “Know your surroundings, know where you’re going, know that there’s a major national event that’s happening in our city that week.”