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Ridge: Convention security measures solid

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on August 25.)

NEW YORK -- Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Wednesday that security measures for the Republican National Convention are as strong and well-coordinated as officials have had for any event.

``We are prepared,'' Ridge told reporters after inspecting mobile police command facilities that will be deployed to protect the convention, which begins Monday at Madison Square Garden. ``The city's secure, it's safe, and we hope the visitors and the community enjoy the terrific week that lays ahead of us.''

Ridge said New Yorkers should rest assured that authorities have put a remarkable amount of planning into venue protection, airspace security and emergency equipment. He met earlier with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. George Pataki and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

``We are not closing down,'' Bloomberg told reporters. ``We will be safe. We will enforce the laws of our land. The eyes of the world will be on us. We have a unique opportunity to tell New York's story of openness, tolerance, inclusiveness and hospitality.''

Bloomberg said he expected disturbances for surrounding neighborhoods to be minor and ``more than offset by the positive effects of the convention.''

Large protests are planned for each of the convention's four days as well as the weekend before it opens. New York police also must protect Mets and Yankees baseball games and the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

At a press conference with Ridge and Pataki, Bloomberg repeatedly invoked the economic benefits he expects the convention to bring to the city, whose voters are overwhelmingly Democratic. Authorities have said security costs for the GOP convention could exceed $60 million.

``Whatever our political persuasions,'' Bloomberg said, ``a national political convention where a party nominates its candidate for the presidency is a fundamental part of our electoral system. We all have a vested interest in making sure that New York City is a good host.''

Joining law enforcement officers in New York City are Capitol police who protect members of Congress in Washington. Citing security, officials in Washington wouldn't say how many Capitol police would accompany House and Senate members to the convention.

Congressional leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., have Capitol police teams assigned to them nearly 24 hours a day. The Washington-based officers also provided protection to congressional members who attended the Democratic convention in Boston last month.

Separately Wednesday, Amtrak alerted customers to special security measures put in place for the week of the convention. Amtrak says passengers riding most trains between Washington and Boston will need to make reservations in advance. Baggage that is checked in New York will be screened, and carry-on luggage may be subject to on-board police checks. Access to New York's Penn Station, the railroad's busiest, also will be limited to just two entrances.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

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