Cleveland keeping low police profile for
Send a link to a friend
[July 13, 2016]
By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - As dozens of Black
Lives Matter protesters chanted: "No justice, no peace!" in central
Cleveland on Monday, they faced down a wall of police - on bicycles,
dressed in polo shirts and shorts.
It was the kind of police presence the organizers of next week's
Republican National Convention in Cleveland have long had in mind -
respectful of free speech, and orderly. No arrests were made.
Elsewhere in the United States, tensions are high since last week's
deadly attack on police in Dallas, creating scenes like the one in Baton
Rouge, Louisiana, where police in riot gear confronted a woman standing
calmly in a flowing dress, an image captured in a photograph that has
attracted worldwide attention.
But in Cleveland, where the four-day Republican convention begins on
Monday, police are committed to a low profile, avoiding the militarized
presence that has become common in recent years since police across the
country received free war surplus equipment from the Pentagon.
The Ohio city is sticking with its plan even after the events in Dallas,
where a black U.S. veteran of the Afghan war, who had said he wanted to
"kill white people," fatally shot five police officers on Thursday.
The attack came during an otherwise peaceful protest to denounce last
week's police killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.
Protests have continued in those states, resulting in hundreds of
arrests. Cleveland police have said they will increase intelligence and
surveillance as a result of the Dallas attacks.
"(Dallas) affects our planning, but we have planned, we have what-iffed
and we have table-topped this for a long time," the police chief, Calvin
Williams, told a news conference on Tuesday. "We don't want anybody to
trample on anybody else's rights."
Steve Loomis, the head of the Cleveland police officers' union, said
Cleveland may be too lightly equipped. He also complained about a
28-page General Police Order sent to officers a month before the
convention, with instructions on de-escalating conflicts and preserving
protesters' rights, calling it condescending and designed to make
officers look weak.
"We have no shields because they think it is too offensive," Loomis
said. "But a brick to the head is offensive to me."
Political conventions are a magnet for protests even under normal
circumstances, and Cleveland will have the Trump factor.
Donald Trump, the New York businessman set to receive the Republican
presidential nomination for the Nov. 8 election, has stirred passions
among supporters and opponents during the campaign with his comments on
illegal immigrants and Muslims, and the two sides have clashed at
several of his campaign events.
Cleveland's gun laws will allow people to carry guns openly within the
so-called event zone where demonstrations will take place. The New Black
Panther Party, a "black power" movement, will carry firearms for
self-defense during demonstrations in Cleveland, the group's chairman
[to top of second column]
An anti-Trump protester holds his protest sign in front of mounted
police outside a rally for Republican U.S. presidential candidate
Donald Trump in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. March 12, 2016.
REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo
The city comes into the convention with less hardware than other
places. Cleveland never received any war surplus but has bought one
armored vehicle and personal protective equipment for officers, a
police spokeswoman said. Otherwise, Cleveland has avoided
"controlled equipment" such as bayonets and grenade launchers, which
the Defense Department has since recalled from many police
But the city is also keeping secret millions of dollars worth of
police purchases until after the convention, citing security
Among the publicly disclosed purchases for the convention to date
have been 2,000 new sets of personal protection equipment,
colloquially known as riot gear.
The U.S. Secret Service and FBI will run security inside the
convention hall, while Cleveland police will handle crowd control
outside, aided by 3,000 reinforcements, mostly from elsewhere in
Jacqueline Greene, co-coordinator for the National Lawyers Guild, a
human rights organization, expressed concern the visiting officers
may not share Cleveland's priorities on protecting free speech.
Cleveland and visiting police will be bound by the General Police
Order on managing crowds while protecting free speech and assembly
rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The order directs police to "rely on de-escalation and voluntary
compliance, and without using force, as the primary means of
Only the police chief or one of his designated subordinates may
approve mass arrests.
"One order is to create space," Loomis said. "That is retreating.
When they (protesters) see we are on our heels, it is a victory for
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Peter
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.