City prepares for Pence

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Governor Mike Pence speaking with supporters at a campaign rally for Donald Trump at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Courtesy Gage Skidmore)
Governor Mike Pence speaking with supporters at a campaign rally for Donald Trump at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Courtesy Gage Skidmore)

Indiana Governor and Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence will be making a campaign stop in Williamsburg Tuesday night and the city is hard at work preparing for his arrival.

Pence is expected to speak in front of the old Capitol building on Duke of Gloucester Street at 7:30 p.m. As of Monday evening, no additional speakers have been confirmed by the campaign.

While Williamsburg is just another stop on the campaign trail for Pence, his visit creates a series of challenges for the city — both in terms of security and politics.

“The City’s first concern is the safety of all persons present on the street,” said Lee Ann Hartmann, public information officer for the City of Williamsburg. “But [the city] seeks to accommodate First Amendment activities as reasonably possible.”

Accommodating those First Amendment activities means the city, in an effort to remain politically neutral, required rally organizers to file for a special event permit, just like any other citizen.

“We made them go through the regular processes and channels,” said Andy Barker, deputy police chief for the City of Williamsburg. “If a citizen wanted to do something similar, they would have to go through the same process.”

The upcoming political rally on Duke of Gloucester Street has created some challenges for Colonial Williamsburg as well. While the Capitol building is part of Colonial Williamsburg, the street in front of the building belongs to the city. The rally will be held on the public street and is in no way affiliated with Colonial Williamsburg, said Joe Straw, public relations manager at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

“The rally, which was approved by the City of Williamsburg, is not a Colonial Williamsburg event,” Straw said in a statement released to media. “The event will be held on public property and will be managed using city resources. As a 501(c)(3) organization, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation does not endorse any particular candidate or political party.”

Politics aside, the logistics of the rally itself will require a section of the city to be shut down for several hours Tuesday night. According to Barker, the street in front of the Capitol, from R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse to the Capitol, will be closed to public access from 5 p.m. until about 9 p.m.

Entrances to the rally will be located on Blair Street and barricades will surround the area. Gates will open at 4:30 p.m. A limited number of tickets into the gated area are available through the Trump campaign website.

Between 200 and 500 people are expected to attend the rally, Barker said. He stated that, regardless of the number of rally attendees, the city still has to be mindful of the area’s regular visitors and tourists.

“We have to meet both needs,” said Barker. “Pence’s needs and his fans’ needs, and those who are visiting the area, but not there for the rally.”

This post has been updated to reflect that the political rally will occur on a city street in front of the Capitol, which is public property, not at the Capitol, which is Colonial Williamsburg property.