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Presidential prep work: Annapolis plans for Trump before Naval Academy speech

Danielle Ohl
Contact Reporterdohl@capgaznews.com

What does it take to prepare for a presidential visit?

Well, for one thing, skillful coordination.

Annapolis is ramping up its preparations for President Donald Trump’s visit to the city May 25, when he will speak to graduating midshipmen at the culmination of the Naval Academy’s Commissioning Week.

But the event isn’t all tossing covers and flyovers. The city’s public safety departments have been working behind the scenes for months to ensure Trump’s security and the security of the expected 6,500 daily visitors who will descend on Annapolis between May 21 and May 25, Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin Simmons said.

City officials couldn’t immediately estimate how many police, fire and emergency management employees will work to secure the city for the presidential visit. But Simmons has issued a no-leave policy for his staff on May 25. Police and fire do not have no-leave policies in place. During former President Barack Obama’s 2013 visit, overtime expenses totaled $23,667.57 for police and fire employees.

OEM is treating Trump’s visit the same way, Simmons said.

The challenging part is establishing a seamless plan among several agencies each with different protocols. Local entities — OEM, the Annapolis Fire Department, Annapolis Police Department and Annapolis Harbormaster’s Office — will cooperate with the Secret Service, the Maryland Capitol Police, Maryland State Police, Naval Academy police and fire services, and others.

“It’s a pretty phenomenal feat, getting together and being on the same page,” Simmons said.

What exactly the plan looks like is a bit of a secret — but that’s kind of the point. OEM is waiting to hear from the Secret Service about coordination between the two. The office will hold a briefing in two weeks with all the involved departments to “make sure the plan is on point,” Simmons said, and lock down any last-minute changes. After a quick overview, the briefing will be mostly closed to the public so the agencies can go over sensitive information.

The Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center is conducting a vulnerability assessment for the city to determine if there are any imminent threats, which could range from international terrorism to homegrown violence. The center works with federal partners, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, to determine if anyone is planning suspicious activity. If the agency finds anything, they notify the local authorities immediately, Director David Engel said.

There are no known threats to Annapolis as of now, Engel said.

Simmons’ department is on the lookout for any talk of protests.

“We’re also cognizant that folks like to protest this president so we’re preparing in case we have people that want to protest,” Simmons said.

OEM employees scan social media looking for groups trying to organize a demonstration. The office will reach out to make sure the group can safely exercise their First Amendment right to assemble, Simmons said. He has seen some groups trying online to generate interest in a protest, but declined to name the groups.

Kathryn Dahl, a co-founder of the progressive activist group Action Annapolis, said there have been discussions surrounding a protest but no decision has been made yet. Anne Arundel County Indivisible is planning a protest, founder Yasemin Jamison said.

City spokeswoman Susan O’Brien said there have been no formal applications for a demonstration submitted to the city. There are no protests scheduled for Lawyers Mall on May 25.

And then there’s traffic.

“Annapolis is 7 square miles and with all the families that are coming in to watch their loved ones graduate and all the acts with the air shows … we’re looking at an additional 6,500 (people) each day,” Simmons said.

The Blue Angels flight rehearsals and demonstrations will close the Naval Academy Bridge from 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:45 to 4 p.m. May 22 and from 1:45 to about 4 p.m. May 23. In case of bad weather May 22, the bridge will close from 10:45 a.m. until 1 p.m. May 23. OEM will coordinate with other agencies to create a traffic plan to avoid gridlock. Control points will allow public safety personnel to keep cars moving through the Annapolis streets.

Once public safety has a better idea of how Commissioning Week events will affect traffic, O’Brien will be posting on social media and sending out alerts to residents.

“Don’t plan your doctor’s appointments, don’t plan meetings,” O’Brien said.

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