In the months since Joe Biden won the presidential election, Rehoboth Beach has been thrust onto the international stage.
Generally speaking, the limelight has been good – news networks from across the globe have set up shop near the Boardwalk. However, as the Jan. 6 events that took place in the U.S. Capitol show, there’s a possibility the light will also attract unwanted attention.
That possibility isn’t lost on Mayor Stan Mills or the Rehoboth Beach Police Department. During an interview Jan. 10, Mills said he watched the Jan. 6 events unfold live on TV.
“Safety is priority No. 1,” said Mills when asked how he feels about protecting the oceanfront city and its residents.
Rehoboth Beach Police Lt. Jamie Riddle said the city has been working with the Secret Service to stay on top of things. The goal is to always be prepared, he said, without going into specifics.
Every large gathering in town was canceled this year because of COVID-19, but in a normal year, Rehoboth Beach hosts multiple events that draw tens of thousands of people at once. Riddle said the police department has become accustomed to coordinating with state police, and other state and local authorities in preparation for events.
There’s a talented group of people here in Delaware and everyone is doing all they can possibly do, said Riddle.
Henlopen Acres officials are also aware of the potential for unrest. During a meeting Jan. 8, two days after the turmoil in D.C., commissioners conducted their first virtual meeting of 2021.
Henlopen Acres will have little to do with safety firsthand – the town has security personnel, but not a police department – but during a brief discussion, Mayor Joni Reich said the town will help any way it can. The security needed for Biden poses quite a challenge to the local community, she said.
In May 2019, Rehoboth Beach amended a special events ordinance that differentiates between events and activities protected by the First Amendment. For activities involving free expression of First Amendment rights, an applicant is required to give the city manager 36 hours’ notice.
As of the time of this interview, Riddle said no protest applications had been submitted to the city.
Riddle said the city doesn’t want to infringe on anyone’s First Amendment rights, but communication is key. It makes it safe for the protesters, the city and its residents, he said.
There are no blueprints for a protest, said Riddle. They all require information gathering, analysis and being prepared to do what is necessary, he said.