Anyone who attended the John Kerry rally could tell that the security surrounding the event was intense. However, Secret Service agents claimed that this was nothing compared to the security that will be in place for the Presidential debate being held on campus in the fall.
That may be hard to believe, considering the security measures that were taken for the senator’s visit Sunday.
State of the art metal detectors were installed at the two entry points near the Rock, and each person – in the long lines that formed over two hours before the event – at least had his or her bag thoroughly searched before entering the area.
In addition to the Secret Service agents permeating the premises, the Miami-Dade Police could be seen in full force, and a thorough bomb inspection by the Miami-Dade Bomb Squad was conducted shortly before Kerry’s performance.
Kerry stayed in the Rat while the inspection took place.
Squad members went through all of the offices in the UC, paying particular attention to those that overlooked the Rock. Canine units sniffed for explosives, and Secret Service agents aided in the search through piles of merchandise in the UM bookstore. After locking up the chlorine tank by the UC pool, they conducted an extensive search of the roof.
Agents could be seen from the UC balconies facing the Rock before, during and after the event.
The UC was closed between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but hours after the speech ended, an area extending from the Law School to the School of Music to the Richter Library was still cordoned off with yellow police tape.
Secret Service agents could be seen patrolling the campus until late into the afternoon, and employees of the Department of Student Activities and Leadership Programs were called – along with College Democrats members and other volunteers – to assist with crowd control.
“I think that it was a great crowd,” said Renee Callan, director of the Department of Student Activites and Leadership Programs. “More showed up than I expected.”
There were no major security issues during the event, aside from some aggressive Kerry fans and derogatory actions toward the few picketers at the rally.
One incident occurred with a spectator holding a Bush-Cheney sign outside the perimeter of the Rock before the speech took place. Another spectator grabbed the sign, and several others began making pro-Kerry remarks. The man replied with calls of “free speech,” at which point a SS agent appeared out of nowhere and told the harassers, “You have two seconds to leave this kid alone.”
Despite the minor incidents, organizers said that the day went smoothly.
“I didn’t hear about any problems happening, even with people who didn’t necessarily agree with Sen. Kerry’s viewpoints,” said Cynthia Chapel, assistant director of the Department of Student Activities and Leadership Programs.
Jillian Bandes can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.