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Organizers say thousands will attend protest on first day of RNC in Milwaukee 

Coalition to March on the RNC 2024 includes over 100 activist groups across state, nation

Omar Flores (right) with the Coalition to March on the RNC 2024 speaks during a press conference in Milwaukee on June 6, 2024. Evan Casey/WPR

A left-leaning protest group is moving forward with plans for a large rally Monday during the first day of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, other groups with varying political agendas will be protesting in the city during the week of the event, which is expected to bring more than 50,000 people to Milwaukee.

Omar Flores, co-chair of the Coalition to March on the RNC 2024, said he expects anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 people to attend their Monday march.

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“In our eyes, a successful march as the coalition is to completely overshadow what they’re (RNC) doing,” Flores said in a Wednesday interview. 

The Republican National Convention will run from Monday through Thursday, with the main events occurring inside Fiserv Forum. The U.S. Secret Service and city of Milwaukee released the designated security and protest zones for the event in June. The designated protest zones, which will be at Zeidler Union Square and Haymarket Square, will have a speaker’s platform for protesters.

Nick DeSiato, chief of staff for Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, said around 140 groups registered to use the speakers platform or to march along a parade route. But, he said Wednesday, some groups have either dropped out or combined.

“Either way, we’ll be prepared for everybody who registered and we’re looking forward to them having an opportunity to exercise their First Amendment rights,” DeSiato said.

DeSiato said there appears to be a “blend” of messages and political leanings in the groups who have registered with the city, including “left-leaning” groups and “right-leaning” groups. But he said protesters don’t necessarily have to register with the city to protest.

“If individuals want to exercise their First Amendment rights outside of our platform area or our parade route, and they’re doing so lawfully, they certainly have the right to do that,” he said.

A statement from the Milwaukee Police Department said the department “respects the rights of all individuals who wish to peacefully express their First Amendment rights.”

“We remain committed to preparing for a safe, secure and successful Republican National Convention,” the statement added.

The Coalition to March on the RNC 2024 protest route. Photo from the Coalition to March on the RNC 2024

The coalition’s march is set to start 10 a.m. Monday at Red Arrow Park and will span several blocks throughout downtown Milwaukee. Flores said the event will be “family friendly.” 

“We want to be heard by the people inside of the Fiserv Forum, not outside of it,” Flores said during a Tuesday press conference. 

The group’s website said the march will “Fight the racist and reactionary agenda of the Republican Party.” The website also said protesters will “Defend women’s, LGBTQ, and reproductive rights,” and “Defend and expand immigrant rights.”

“We’re planning to take all these demands to be right within sight and sound of the RNC,” said Audari Tamyo, co-chair of the Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “We’re excited for this because we’ve been planning for it ever since it was announced that the RNC was going to be in Milwaukee.”

The coalition’s planned protest route goes right up to the “pedestrian restricted perimeter,” or the area where only credentialed people will be allowed inside.

Alexi Worley, a spokesperson for the U.S. Secret Service, said the general public will be allowed to walk inside the “vehicle screening perimeter.”

“Individuals are able to walk into that perimeter freely, and vehicles are required to enter through a vehicle screening point,” Worley wrote in an email. 

“The Pedestrian Restricted, or Inner, Perimeter is only accessible to individuals who are ticketed or credentialed for RNC access. No personal vehicles are permitted in that inner perimeter,” the email added. 

A month before the convention, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin announced a lawsuit against the city of Milwaukee which argued the city ordinance related to protests during the convention restricts protesters’ rights. But a Tuesday statement from the ACLU of Wisconsin said a judge ruled that the city “acted in accordance with the Constitution  when establishing rules regulating protests during the Republican National Convention.”

“The  judge decided that the city’s parade route does not need to be changed to comply with constitutional requirements,” the statement said.