Expect delays, closures, & protests in Milwaukee as the RNC comes to town

Expect delays, closures, & protests in Milwaukee as the RNC comes to town

Credit: WisPolitics

By Josh Skarda

July 11, 2024

As an estimated 50,000 visitors are expected to descend upon Milwaukee next week for the Republican National Convention (RNC), things will look fairly different throughout the city with heightened security protocols, planned protests and road closures. 

The primary locations of the convention will be the Fiserv Forum, the Baird Center and the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Former president Donald Trump will be accepting his nomination as the Republican nominee at the convention, and is also expected to announce his choice for vice president.

In June, the Secret Service released a map detailing which areas of downtown will be closed to the public during the convention, as well as which security measures will be put in place.

Expect delays, closures, & protests in Milwaukee as the RNC comes to town

(Photo courtesy of the City of Milwaukee)

The map is divided into two areas: the pedestrian-restricted perimeter (marked in red), and the vehicle-scanning perimeter (marked in yellow). The pedestrian-restricted area is limited to authorized individuals, and no vehicles are allowed. The vehicle-scanning area is open to all pedestrians, but vehicles must pass through at one of five points. Temporary road closures are expected to begin on Thursday, July 11, and the security perimeters will go into full effect on Sunday, July 14. The perimeters will stop being enforced starting Friday, July 19. 

The Henry W. Maier Festival Park will also be closed to the public on Sunday, July 14 for a convention welcome party. A portion of the surrounding area will be under vehicle-scanning restrictions, and part of Interstate 794 will be closed. 

Along with the security perimeters, the Secret Service designated two protest zones and a parade route for demonstrators who are planning to march against the convention. The two zones are Zeidler Union Square and Haymarket Square Park, both of which are inside the vehicle-scanning perimeter. The parade route will run around several blocks surrounding Zeidler Union Square.

However, some protest groups are unhappy with the designated demonstration areas. The Coalition to March on the RNC is instead planning to march on a route that circles Pere Marquette Park, which is closer and more visible to the main area of the convention. 

The coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee in June, alleging that the city is violating their right to protest by limiting where their demonstrations during the convention can take place. Their proposed route will not enter any pedestrian-restricted zones.

Although the RNC has been touted as an economic opportunity for local businesses in Milwaukee, some have become doubtful about the actual financial impact that the convention will have. Iconic downtown venues like the Riverside Theater and the Pabst Theater will sit empty during the convention, after Pabst Theater Group CEO Gary Witt said he signed contracts with the convention to reserve their space for convention bookings. Now, he says that those bookings were a false promise.

“The contract we signed with the RNC, obligated us to hold 7/14 thru 7/19 only for use by the RNC,” wrote Witt on Twitter. “We couldn’t book any other shows.”

The Mothership, a bar in the city’s Bay View neighborhood, announced in March that it would be closing its doors for the week of the RNC. “I’m not trying to get involved with, or actively take money, or rent the space out to that tomfoolery,” wrote bar owner Ricky Ramirez in a post on Instagram. 

Although not many others have followed suit in closing their doors for political reasons, the Milwaukee Public Museum will be closed for the week of the convention because of its location within the vehicle-screening perimeter. Due to maritime restrictions along the Milwaukee River during the convention, Milwaukee Boat Line and Riverwalk Boat Tours will also not be operating boat excursions on convention dates.

In June, Trump reportedly referred to Milwaukee as a “horrible city” in a private meeting with House Republicans. He later walked back his comments, but some of the city’s voters say that the damage has already been done.

“I think the message is pretty clear,” said Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson. “You’ve heard from the man himself. Let’s all work to make sure that he doesn’t have the opportunity to live in another city that I think he probably thinks is horrible, too – and that’s Washington, D.C.”


  • Josh Skarda

    Josh Skarda is a journalism student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, born and raised in Appleton, Wisconsin. In his free time, he writes freelance for student publications and serves as the music director for UWM’s student radio station.

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