ATLANTA — Atlanta’s mayor is promising a “safe, smooth and secure” college football championship game Monday, despite the traffic problems expected to be caused by President Donald Trump’s motorcade, but none of the many agencies involved are taking any chances.
The stadium will be secured by legions of undercover and uniformed officers, overhead air traffic including drones will be prohibited and the police chief implored the more than 100,000 participants in events related to the big game to leave their guns at home.
“Please please execute the highest regard and greatest level of common sense. We CANNOT have folks continuing to bring guns and leaving them in their cars,” Chief Erika Shields said at a multi-agency news conference Thursday on preparations.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the Secret Service and other agencies have prepared for this for months, so the addition of a presidential visit to the mix won’t disrupt the fun.
“Enjoy the game, enjoy the city, and let us handle the details,” the mayor said.
Special Agent David LeValley, who runs the FBI’s Atlanta office, said although “there aren’t any specific threats against this event, we are actively assessing intelligence that comes in.” Precautions include the Federal Aviation Administration prohibiting aircraft over Mercedes Benz Stadium, including drones.
Both LeValley and Shields urged people attending the game and surrounding events, including a concert in nearby Centennial Olympic Park, to call 911 if they see anything suspicious.
“We encourage and ask that everyone be aware of their surroundings while they’re in the city, and immediately report any suspicious activity, no matter how trivial it may seem to be,” LeValley said.
Monday evening’s College Football Playoff Championship game between the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama was already being treated as a high-level security event, so the president’s visit won’t imply much additional security, LeValley said.
College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock said the stadium already requires fans to comply with stringent security. He said he hadn’t heard from the White House about any additional measures as of Thursday afternoon.
The contest will be held in downtown Atlanta, in the congressional district of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat and a civil rights icon.
Trump tweeted last year that Lewis’ district was “in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested)” — a claim hard to match with the facts. Atlanta’s economy is growing rapidly, and while crime and poverty remain higher-than-average, the district is home to several Fortune 500 headquarters, prestigious universities and the nation’s busiest airport.
Trump’s tweet came after Lewis announced he would skip Trump’s inauguration, saying he didn’t consider him to be a “legitimate president” due to Russian interference in the election.
Trump’s visit comes almost a half-century after President Richard Nixon attended the 1969 showdown between No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. After Texas won 15-14, Nixon visited with players in the locker room and presented Texas coach Darrell Royal with a plaque declaring Texas the national champion.