So, You Want to Go to the GOP Convention…

No.  Don’t.  Stay away.

It’s not that I don’t like Cleveland.  I’m not saying this due to any political feelings.  I’m stating this due to my perspective as a former Secret Service agent who has worked events like the Olympic Games, a couple of inauguration’s, and the 2000 DNC Convention in L.A.  Stay home.  Unless your home is in Cleveland.  Then, you should leave.

Any major political event has challenges and all draw emotionally charged people with conflicting points of view.  Even in election years when our society seems to have become polarized and the Democratic and Republicans have platforms so far apart the Juno spacecraft would have trouble covering the distance, most of the security challenges can be overcome to a reasonable extent.  Normally, there are countermeasures and logistical solutions to potential threats and disturbances.  Normally, manpower can be added and technological tools can be utilized to secure a site.  This is not normally.

This election season, guns and violence are not just part of the rhetoric used by factions of supporters.  Some prominent political personalities have actually encouraged violence while, in the same breath, expressing a love of guns.  The situation in Cleveland is compounded by the fact that Ohio has open carry laws, meaning people will be able to carry guns outside the convention location even in areas where glass bottles and tennis balls are prohibited.  This creates an impossible situation for police officers and security officials who are supposed to be able to determine, in a split second, who might be the “good guy with a gun” as opposed to an aggressor while wading through a panicked crowd.

Ohio is an open carry state.

Ohio is an open carry state.

A few months ago, the Cleveland Police ordered 2,000 sets of riot gear.  My first question was:  Is that gear going to have to be used inside OR outside the convention?  My second question was:  Will that be enough?  Forgetting that multiple police jurisdictions (each with their own concerns) will be assisting the Cleveland Division of Police (the department’s official name), the host department is still under heavy scrutiny after the Tamir Rice shooting and other incidents.  They aren’t alone as police departments all over the country are on edge as anti-law enforcement sentiment is on the rise and there are serious concerns regarding how police treat minorities and use force.   Police officers are already under the microscope.  Now thousands of officers will be gathering in Cleveland in an effort to keep the peace among a public that does not trust them.

This is their nightmare scenario.

The Secret Service can’t do it alone.  The agency depends on local and state support and this is no exception.  As I’ve written previously, the Secret Service has a specific role in these events and have no political agenda.  Earlier in this election year, they received negative media attention when an agent was involved in a scuffle with a photographer, although only half the story was told.  Regardless, they are being faced with a scenario in which some level of violence is almost certain to exist and the agency has to protect not only specific individuals, but also ensure the security of the entire venue.

This is their nightmare scenario.

Those who wish to demonstrate outside the convention location in order to peacefully express an opinion are likely to be caught in between frustrated groups who not only dislike each other, but may be armed.  Many of those in the crowd will be carrying deep feelings regarding racial inequality, economic disparity, and religion.  Many will be carrying deadly weapons.  The peaceful and well-meaning will be right in the mix of things.

This is their nightmare scenario.

Regardless of what happens during the actual GOP Convention, one thing will not happen.  Healing will not be part of this process.  If anything, I expect more cuts to be made and more scar tissue will show after the event.  You can watch.  But, watch it from a distance.

Feel free to comment below!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.


An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.



In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology



4 thoughts on “So, You Want to Go to the GOP Convention…

  1. Chelsea P

    I have enjoyed your insights on all of this. Knowing so many in all different levels of law enforcement, I always worry. I can only hope for the best and know every officer involved up there is trained for those worst case scenarios and pray they never have to use that training.

    1. J.J. Hensley Post author

      Thanks, Chelsea. I think this piece came off a little more “doomsday” than I intended. However, I do see great potential for violence if even one incident is permitted to get out of control.


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