Barricades gatekeep the UN General Assembly

Nikhil Goswami

How high are the barriers to entry at the U.N. General Assembly? Less than 4 feet (1.2 meters), technically.

While the barricades encircling the perimeter of the United Nations headquarters in New York are scarcely hip-level, the sea of gray grilles makes it clear that — with scores of world leaders and other high-profile figures slated to descend — security is intended to be more than just theater.

Patrick Freaney, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s New York field office, called the U.N. General Assembly both “one of the highest-profile events in the world” and “the largest protective event for the Secret Service on an annual basis.

” U.N. staff and visitors must clear multiple checkpoints. Accredited media, for instance, flash badges at an NYPD and U.N. police checkpoints before going through an airport-style security screening that prologues the long (but scenic) trek to the international press corral in the U.N. Secretariat Building.

There are myriad types of U.N. badges, each adorned with a colored symbol. Woe betide the grounds passholder who shows up at the “wrong” entrance; you may be made to walk several blocks, though several on Monday attempted to argue with U.N. police.

Security is a joint effort mounted by U.N., federal, state and local law enforcement. NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey told news outlets that preparation for this year’s General Assembly began shortly after last year’s hybrid meeting, which saw far fewer world leaders attend.

The 2020 meeting, at the height of the early pandemic, was entirely virtual.

While there were no specific threats to the General Assembly or the city, Corey said, one can’t too careful: “There’s always a certain amount of disharmony in the world.”


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