CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In August 2020, tens of thousands of people will descend on the Queen City for the Republican National Convention. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are planning a round of community engagement meetings, hoping to lay the foundation for a safe and secure event.
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“I can't wait to be back here for the 2020 Republican National Convention,” President Donald Trump said to a roaring crowd during a recent visit to Charlotte.
In two years, Charlotte's expertise with hospitality will once again be in the national spotlight. “I think if we don't get our house in order prior to, it's gonna be easy for some of local people to get captivated and have the narrative hijacked,” Chief Kerr Putney said.
But Putney says the 2020 RNC will be unlike any event the city has ever hosted. “The environment we find ourselves in nationally, everything national impacts us locally,” Putney added.
There's concern a deep political divide across the country and extremes on both sides of the aisle could lead to violence during the RNC. “As a police department, we're at the forefront,” Putney said. “Without community support, we can't do our jobs, so we have to be the catalyst to start this conversation.”
It's why CMPD and the city are about to launch an initiative called “Bridging the Difference.” “So, that we can find the middle ground and common ground that we have in the love for our city, so we're prepared for whoever might come visit us.”
Social activist Robert Dawkins is helping with the chief's effort. “I'm hoping that we're opening doors to see if there's commonality that we can work on to make sure Charlotte a better place, convention or no convention,” Dawkins said.
They'll host a series of community conversations starting with one November 15 at Johnson C. Smith University that will focus on both police accountability and police support. “We're gonna have some intimate tables where people from diverse background can connect and sit down and have a conversation, share your opinion, defend your perspective, and probably come out finding middle ground,” Chief Putney explained.
The city is also inviting people to commit to being volunteers during the RNC to help welcome people to the city and also help CMPD identify people carrying suspicious packages or protests that look to be turning violent.
If you're interested, email CMPD at BridgingtheDifference@CMPD.org.