Navigating security at the Democratic National Convention is like being a rat running through a maze with pathways that keep changing.
How much security and where it is will be constantly in flux throughout the week, depending largely on which top administration officials are in town. Michelle Obama arrived on Monday night. Vice President Joe Biden will arrive on Tuesday. President Obama will arrive on Wednesday for his acceptance speech on Thursday. Although exceptions will always be possible, generally speaking, security will get tighter (and thus, lines longer) as Obama’s big night gets closer.
Here’s a broad rundown of what to expect.
DO provide an extra 45 minutes to get into uptown (that’s what the locals call downtown Charlotte) and to go through (possibly multiple) security checkpoints. This is where the three main venues are located: Time Warner Cable Arena, where the official convention proceedings are scheduled to occur on Tuesday and Wednesday; Bank of America Stadium, where Obama is to deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday; and the Charlotte Convention Center, where media outlets have workspace and other convention-related caucus meetings take place. Road closures seem like they’re around every corner, but that’s probably because they keep changing every day.
DON’T expect every volunteer or police officer to know the answer to your questions. Dan Cravens, a police officer from Charlotte patrolling outside the convention center on Monday noted they’re not informed what to do until 15 or so minutes ahead of time. Volunteers waving signs that say “Ask me” may have to find someone else for you to talk to, depending on what you’re asking.
DO take note of the more than two dozen items banned in the three sites (you can find them at demconvention.com/about/community-credentials/#Prohibited). Secret Service agents note that the list has been a staple of high-security happenings such as this that are designated “National Special Security Events” since at least 2004, but some items seem silly nonetheless. Obviously, leave guns and knives at home, but also ditch whole fruit (bananas and apples, for example), banners, signs (sorry, protesters), sticks, poles, glass bottles, metal thermoses, and coolers.
DO realize that umbrellas are not allowed in Time Warner Cable Arena or Bank of America Stadium, and that the forecast is for heavy rain every afternoon this week.
DON’T lose all hope that you’ll never see your umbrella again if it’s confiscated. The Secret Service and convention organizers say they don’t take permanent possession of items, so you can—in theory—come back for it later.
DON’T worry about having to take off your shoes when going through security. A Secret Service agent who compared convention security to the airport version added, on the condition of anonymity, that convention-goers aren’t expected to shed their footwear.
DO realize what unsuspecting accessories set off a metal detector. “All the little buttons people wear make the metal detector go off,” said a security officer at the convention center, who wished to remain anonymous because his company, Show Pros (contracted for the convention), did not authorize its employees to speak to the media.
This article appears in the September 4, 2012 edition of NJ Convention Daily.