In Depth: Democratic Party Convention Security
Boston's big political party in 2004 took a lot of planning. During a six-month period, CSO followed U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Scott Sheafe as he and others developed a security plan tailored to make the best of a bad situation.
September 01, 2004 — CSO — It's the Sunday morning before the Democratic National Convention. Inside Boston's FleetCenter, four days hence, delegates will stomp and holler their way to nominating Sen. John Kerry as their candidate to be the next president of the United States. Now, the seats that will hold thousands of raucous delegates and eager journalists are mostly empty. But the floor teems with a different kind of frenetic activity, as organizers dart around and technicians check the sound and lighting system, then check it again, to make sure that everything is perfect.
The overall effect is one of anticipatory buzz. It permeates the floor and rises to the upper reaches of the arena, where thousands of red, white and blue balloons are held, ready to drop—the perfect symbol for the pent-up energy in the place. But Secret Service Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge Scott Sheafe, whose job is to secure this site, doesn't pause for long on the tour he is giving to savor signs of the coming hoopla. Instead, he turns his back to the stage and directs my attention toward the windows.
Outside, the pale blue skies are clear except for a few wispy clouds and the occasional
police or military helicopter. The Charles River Basin, dotted with moored boats, stretches east into Boston's inner harbor. From the seventh floor, its waters look calm. To the north is the new Leonard P. Zakim Bridge
"See how close it is?" Sheafe says, tapping on the window. It's not the first time he's pointed this out, and it won't be the last. "This connector ramp right here is about 15 feet [away from the building]. The first lane starts at about 20 feet."
Then he points to a restricted parking lot where buses will unload delegates starting on Monday. Stretching across our field of vision at every turn is a section of the 12-foot-high metal security fence that surrounds a security perimeter of some 1.7 million square feet. We can't see it from here, but on the other side of the building, out on Causeway Street, journalists and TV news crews are already lined up to get inside those fences, prepared to endure a security screening stricter than at any airport in the country.