By Matt Apuzzo, The Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) -- A note to New York: Put up those security fences
early. And be ready for lots of suspicious packages.
As Republicans and security officials put the finishing touches on
plans for the GOP convention in New York, they're learning from the
Democrats' experience in Boston -- the first major political
convention since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"We will sit down and look at things that went well and things we
could have done differently," said Ann Roman, a spokeswoman for the
Secret Service, which coordinates the extraordinary convention
The Democratic event proved safe and peaceful. In fact, law
enforcement agencies spent less than $40 million of the $50 million
appropriated by Congress for security in Boston, police said Friday.
There were a few hitches, though. The first night, delegates heading
into the FleetCenter for the start of the Democratic National
Convention had to navigate a crowd of singing protesters,
libertarians with bullhorns and demonstrators handing out Christian
The unexpected influx, with no fence to separate protesters from
delegates, added distraction and delay for officials who had
carefully scripted so much of the convention's security.
"That was certainly a mistake, and one we don't plan on making in New
York," said Republican convention spokesman Leonardo Alcivar. "It was
an unfortunate mistake that was another example of the difficulty
that convention organizers have had."
Another lesson came from the dozens of suspicious package calls that
kept the bomb squad busy checking what turned out to be innocently
misplaced backpacks or bags.
Because of all those false alarms, New York officials will encourage
travelers not to bring unnecessary bags, and remind them not to leave
anything behind, said Brian Dolan, spokesman for New York's
Metropolitan Transit Authority.
The Secret Service spent more than a year coordinating security with
federal, state and local authorities for the two political
conventions, and some of the same Secret Service agents will work
"The plan in New York is well underway, it's on schedule and almost
in its final stages," agency spokeswoman Roman said.
Congress also allocated $50 million for security at the Republican
convention, which begins Aug. 30.
While the cities are unique, the venues share some challenges. Both
the FleetCenter and Madison Square Garden are built on top of major
Boston officials shut down their North Station; New York officials
have decided not to shut down Penn Station, the country's busiest
train station, but they will close two exits.
Security officials aren't the only ones trying to learn from Boston.
Protest groups say they'll alter their plans in New York to keep
police guessing. Many protesters were stymied in Boston when
authorities erected a "protest pen" outside the FleetCenter, complete
with razor wire atop the fence.
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"We encourage people not to go into the barricades and not go into
protest pens," said Jamie Moran, who helps run the Web site
RNCnotwelcome.org, which helps coordinate protest activities for
dozens of groups. He said some plan to disrupt Broadway shows while
delegates are in town.