Trump was in Johnson City to headline a rally and fundraiser to boost Republican Marsha Blackburn in her tough U.S. Senate race against ex-Gov. Phil Bredesen. Security at the event was tight, with specific rules for those with tickets on what they could and could not take into the facility. Planning for the event started long before Air Force One touched down at the airport.
“The planning, it wasn’t just today ... it started last week,” JCPD Chief Karl Turner said after the rally. Local law enforcement met with the Secret Service to create the security detail. That included the THP shutting down Interstate 81 and Interstate 26 while the JCPD and other local departments took care of all road closings in the city.
Dozens upon dozens of emergency responders — police, fire and medical — were spread out across the Freedom Hall property as officials prepared for the president’s arrival there. There were officers from the Johnson City Police Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol and Jonesborough police, as well as several other departments, including from Elizabethton and Bristol, Tenn.
Ahead of the president’s arrival, police had the building surrounded, certain roads were closed to traffic and there were metal detectors set up for attendees to go through before they could enter the building.
But it wasn’t just Freedom Hall that had lots of police coverage. Officers from agencies across the region were in town to help the Johnson City Police Department handle a crowd of thousands of people who began lining up Sunday for a seat at the historical event. The doors opened at 4 p.m., but Freedom Hall filled quickly, and many with tickets to the event were turned away.
Those folks had to settle for seeing the presidential motorcade as it made its way from the Tri-Cities Airport to Freedom Hall.
Police had not released the route that Trump’s motorcade would actually take — there were apparently three options — but it certainly became clear that North Roan Street was the last leg of the trip as officers began to take their stations at all roads and parking lots that feed onto North Roan.
As the time grew closer, police shut down North Roan Street, where I-26 traffic exits the interstate, and a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter circled the area. There were different groups of vehicles that passed through before the actual motorcade passed.
The Kingsport Police Department Bomb Squad truck, a JCPD SUV cruiser and two Bristol, Tenn., vehicles, along with a foursome of Tennessee Highway Patrol motorcyclists, were the first to pass, then finally the signature black vehicles that make up the presidential motorcade.
Turner said the motorcade route out of Johnson City was the same as how it came into the city.