Security will be tight when President Donald Trump speaks at East Carolina University in front of a capacity crowd at Minges Coliseum on Wednesday, and officials plan to keep anti- and pro-Trump demonstrators separate, a spokesman for ECU police said.
The president is scheduled to speak to a full house at 7 p.m., ECU Police Capt. Chris Sutton said. The arena can accommodate 8,000, but thousands more, including demonstrators, will be outside in what’s expected to be a carnival-like environment watching the president speak on a big screen TV.
Sutton said people are expected to begin lining up at 4 a.m. to ensure they get good seats. Thousands are expected to join the line as the day progresses.
Camping out prior to the event will not be permitted, Sutton said, and those who try to camp out will be asked to leave.
Parking will be free the day of and will occur off of Charles Boulevard and the lower Minges lot and certain lots in front of the football stadium and some lots off of 14th Street, Sutton said.
Demonstrators will be allowed in designated zones.
“For protesters, we will have different locations set up for demonstrations to occur,” Sutton said. “We have been contacted by some groups that have the expectation and are planning to do some anti-protests. We’ll have two different locations.
Trump supporters will occupy a green space just outside of Gate 6 of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, and protestors will be directed to the west side of Minges at the Smith Williams complex near the natatorium, Sutton said.
Sutton said the university is committed to allowing people to exercise their right to free speech but wants to ensure that demonstrators don’t jeopardize the safety and well being of others.
“We’ll be making sure their free speech rights are afforded to them. We want people to feel they have their voice heard. We also need to make sure that nothing is done in a way that makes the environment unsafe for any of the patrons or would prevent any traffic from being able to continue in the parking areas,” Sutton said.
Ticket holders — the campaign distributed free tickets to people who applied for them through the Trump-Pence 2020 website — who cause problems inside the arena will be removed, Sutton said.
“We will work with the campaign staff should anything occur while the event is going on that would be done in a way to try to hijack the event,” Sutton said. “The campaign staff and civilian security staff that they have in place will be that initial contact that will be made with individuals that may become unruly or may become loud or boisterous,” Sutton said.
Strict limitations will be in place for people planning to attend the rally. Sutton said participants should treat security at the event as if they were boarding an airplane.
Bags larger than 10 inches on any side are prohibited along with glass, thermal and metal containers, signs and any items considered to be a hazard. Items surrendered to police will not be returned, he said.
Temperatures are expected to be in the upper 90s with winds out of the southwest at 7-9 mph, according to the National Weather Service. A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms is possible after 1 p.m.
With the hot temperatures forecasted, Sutton said a heat management plan is in place, however, everyone who’s coming should be encouraged to hydrate before the event and drink water through the day. Greenville Fire-Rescue will be on the scene should heat emergencies arise, Sutton said.
Details about the president’s arrival into Greenville and security for his transport were not disclosed.
Sutton said the ECU Police Department is the primary security agency for the event and will work alongside the United States Secret Service, hired security staff, the Greenville Police Department and the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office.
An undisclosed number of officers from various agencies will be spread out both inside and outside of the arena for an added layer of security, Sutton said.
With thousands expected, security will be tight and safety will be paramount, Sutton said.
“It is our No. 1 priority to make sure we have the highest level of safety possible for this event on Wednesday evening,” Sutton said. “We have been working with our local law enforcement agencies as well as the United States Secret Service to ensure that we are providing that layer of safety and protection for all involved that will be coming to the event on Wednesday,” Sutton said.
Contact Tyler Stocks at email@example.com or 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @Tylerstocks1987