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The 2024 Republican National Convention will be in Milwaukee July 15-18, 2024.

Here's what you need to know about the RNC in Milwaukee

 RNC signage on the Fiserv Forum
Graham Thomas
Republican National Convention signage being installed on Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on June 26, 2024.

Editor's note: This post was updated July 12 with the Coalition to March on the RNC's new route.

The 2024 Republican National Convention is coming to Milwaukee. The convention takes place July 15-18, with events primarily at Fiserv Forum, Baird Center and Panther Arena downtown.

Political conventions happen every four years, leading up to presidential elections. The parties officially nominate candidates for president and vice president.

Former President Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He is expected to announce his VP pick in Milwaukee.

WUWM asked you to fill out our election survey to let us know what questions you have about this major event in our city.

We've done our best to answer some of them below, and will continue to add updates as the RNC approaches.

If you have questions that aren't answered below, you can check the City of Milwaukee's RNC FAQ page, Milwaukee County's RNC Operational Updates or complete WUWM's survey.

Why is the RNC happening in Milwaukee?

Milwaukee and Nashville were the two finalists for the RNC in 2024. One selling point for Milwaukee was that it was "turnkey" ready for a convention, since it had gone through preparations for the DNC in 2020. That event ended up being mostly virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And as a swing state, Wisconsin could determine who wins the presidential election.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley were in favor of the RNC coming to Milwaukee because of its potential economic impact in bringing an estimated 50,000 visitors to the city.

"Our city is ready to show the world we are open for business, conventions, and tourism," Johnson said in a press release. "The presidential nomination convention is a historical opportunity to present what a phenomenal place Milwaukee truly is."

The Democratic National Convention is happening in August in Chicago.

Why is Wisconsin a swing state? That’s the question at the heart of this podcast, which explores the state’s historical and current political climate.

What are the security perimeters?

The U.S. Secret Service will enforce two main security perimeters around the convention site: a larger "vehicle screening perimeter," also known as the outer perimeter, and a smaller "pedestrian restricted perimeter," or the inner perimeter.

Members of the public can enter the outer perimeter, but their vehicles will be screened and must enter through a designated checkpoint (shown on the map below). Pedestrians and bicyclists "will be able to freely enter" the outer perimeter from any area, according to the Secret Service.

Only those with Secret Service-approved credentials, which includes convention delegates, volunteers and members of the media, will be allowed in the inner security perimeter.

The 2024 Republican National Convention security map.
The 2024 Republican National Convention security map.

An area surrounding the Summerfest grounds will be closed to the public July 14 for an RNC welcome party at Henry Maier Festival Park Sunday night.

2024 Republican National Convention - Public Security Map
The security map for the RNC kickoff event on Sunday, July 14, 2024 at Henry Maier Festival Park.

What protests are happening, and where?

The Secret Service designated two platforms inside the RNC outer perimeter for protesters to use, as well as a parade route. The protest zones and parade route are shown in blue in the maps below.

U.S. Secret Service
U.S. Secret Service

However, one of the main groups protesting during the RNC is planning to follow its own route with a march on July 15, beginning at 10 a.m. The Coalition to March on the RNC said it wants to march "within sight and sound" of the RNC.

On July 8, a judge ruled that the coalition cannot march into the inner, "hard" security perimeter, as the group had planned.

The coalition announced an updated route Friday afternoon, which starts at Red Arrow Park and takes the group a block from Fiserv Forum.

The Coalition to March on the RNC route map, released Friday Juul
Coalition to March on the RNC
The Coalition to March on the RNC route map, released Friday July 12.

Will the RNC benefit Milwaukee's economy?

Milwaukee's tourism bureau, VISIT Milwaukee, estimates the RNC will have a $200 million economic impact, from the money spent on hotels, bars, restaurants, transportation, etc. and the wages earned by workers whose business increases during the event.

When the RNC was held in Cleveland in 2016, studies commissioned by the host committee found it had a $130-$190 million economic impact.

But Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Sarah Volpenhein says economists who study large-scale events like political conventions are more skeptical.

Economics professor Victor Matheson produced a study in 2009 that looked at the economic impact of political conventions over the years.

When Cleveland hosted the RNC in 2016, hotel revenue was around $20 million, which isn’t $200 million, as was promised, or projected in Milwaukee, but it’s a real bump, Matheson says.

But that doesn’t mean that money is staying in Milwaukee. He calls this a leakage, when money gets spent in a place but doesn’t stick in that place. For example, Matheson says that during a hotel stay, there’s the room fee, which is increased wildly during these events, but the hours of workers doesn’t increase. And their wages don’t increase. The financial boon is happening only for the corporation.

“None of that money sticks in Milwaukee in the hands of local residents and local laborers … that all goes back to corporate headquarters,” says Matheson. “So you've got money being spent in Milwaukee, but it's not actually benefiting Milwaukee.”

Volpenhein says while businesses very close to the RNC may see an increase in foot traffic, other businesses may actually suffer financially.

In Cleveland, Ohio City, a neighborhood that is a 20-minute walk from the convention, was a "ghost town" during the event, according to Volpenhein.

“A lot of businesses that I've talked to have said that they're not expecting any of their regulars the days of the convention because they expect them to go out of town,” she says. “The question is, is that replaced by the convention business or not?”

Will people be able to carry guns in downtown Milwaukee during the RNC?

Yes. People with a license to carry will be able to bring guns into downtown Milwaukee, including into the outer security perimeter during the RNC.

Attorney Tony Cotton told WUWM, Wisconsin is a concealed carry state, which means people can apply for a concealed carry permit and if approved, can possess a weapon in a concealed way — unless a business has its own restrictions on guns. Wisconsin is also an open carry state, so people could also choose to walk around openly carrying guns.

The Milwaukee Common Council voted against an ordinance that would have restricted guns in the RNC security perimeter.

"It conflicts with the constitution is the problem," Cotton says. "You have a right to keep and bear arms. Any ordinance to restrict that right would immediately be struck down in court."

While guns will be allowed within blocks of the RNC, the Secret Service is prohibiting weapons of any kind in the inner perimeter, where only credentialed attendees are allowed.

How will traffic be affected?

The RNC predicts about 50,000 visitors will be in town, including delegates, their family members and media. The influx of people staying in Milwaukee and surrounding suburbs is likely to increase traffic congestion.

According to the Secret Service: "Temporary road closures will be in effect intermittently beginning July 11. Official closures will begin July 14 and run through approximately July 19. The public security map and comprehensive traffic plan, to include a complete list of parking restrictions, road closures, and maritime restrictions, will be available at https://city.milwaukee.gov/RNC/FAQ."

Why hold a convention when the presidential nominee is decided?

Kathleen Dolan, a distinguished professor of political science at UW-Milwaukee, says the country's shift to using primary elections to determine presidential nominees means that conventions aren't so much about picking a candidate. But, they serve other purposes.

For one, it's a lot of free media attention to tout the party and its candidate to the public. It also serves as platform to showcase other candidates — for senate, governor, or other offices.

Political conventions are also used to write the party's platform. Dolan notes that the GOP didn't have a platform in 2020. The party has released its 2024 platform, which drew controversy for its limited mention of abortion.

Emily is an editor and project leader for WUWM.
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