Unrest could ignite Cleveland during the Republican National Convention this July as protesters converge on the city, causing authorities there to call for extra manpower from smaller police departments.
We reached out to police in our newspapers’ coverage areas to find whether they are pledging officers during the RNC.
Amherst has committed three to help with crowd control, according to chief Joseph Kucirek, though it’s unclear whether they’ll serve downtown near Quicken Loans Arena where the convention will be held.
Oberlin is unlikely to do so due to a lack of available officers. Lt. Mike McCloskey said his department has just 17 officers.
“I doubt we’ll have the resources to spare anybody,” he said. “Just because of timing and vacations, we’ve got a few officers out. We have been involved at the county level to discuss what kind of impact the RNC will have.”
And Wellington police expressed interest in providing staffing to Cleveland but declined when key questions were not answered.
“They’re going to need about 5,000 officers downtown and right now they don’t have that,” Barfield said. “Of course we want to help them out.”
He said the village’s insurance company, which represents many other police departments in Lorain County, expressed concerns about taking part. “This is speculative, but I’m sure that their concerns are not limited to the village of Wellington. I forwarded these concerns to the Cleveland police quite a while ago now, and still haven’t heard back.”
All three, however, will be part of a Lorain County field force organized by the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.
About 80 officers are expected to take part in that effort, assisting with crowd control as well as overbooked hotels and campgrounds. Kucirek characterized its role as dealing “with aggressive crowds and mobs.”
About 50,000 people are expected to attend the four-day political event, with accommodations spilling across municipal and county lines.
“There are hotels fully booked even as far as beyond Sandusky,” Barfield said. “The Oberlin Inn is rented out. So it is our obligation to band together with other departments to assist the county if and when they’re problems somewhere.”
Amherst police Lt. Dan Makruski said the plan is to assess the need for extra patrols at local hotels as the convention dates near. “I don’t know if delegates or politicians will be looking to stay in our area but it’s possible. We’re still collecting information at this point, though,” he said.
Demand for security during the convention — at which Donald Trump is expected to be officially deemed the Republican nominee for president of the United States — is at a near unprecedented level.
Mass protests have been predicted by security experts and late night comedians alike. Musical acts, both sanctioned and unsanctioned by the RNC, are also expected to draw even more people to the city.
This spring, the U.S. Department of Justice gave Cleveland $49.9 million to fund security planning for the RNC. It is meant to pay for personnel and equipment, as well as plans for dealing with crises that may arise.
We visited Cleveland this past week for a glimpse of preparations and saw potholes being filled near the convention venue, curbs being fixed, and orange cones everywhere. There was also a row of telecommunications vans in front of The Q; when approached, workers said they couldn’t comment due to security considerations.
Not yet in evidence — tall security fencing expected to be erected around The Q. Certain roads around the venue will be closed and there are likely to be restrictions on drivers and pedestrians around the building.
The American Civil Liberties Union says the city’s security steps have gone too far. The group plans to file suit on First Amendment grounds to protect protesters.
“The restrictions on speech put in place by the city of Cleveland are arbitrary, unnecessary, and unjustifiable,” said Christine Link, executive director for the ACLU of Ohio. “The current rules for demonstrations at the RNC are actively blocking groups from all sides of the political spectrum from participating in their government. City officials have refused to make proper accommodations to protect free speech, so we are asking the courts to step in now.”
The suit targets the so-called “event zone,” a 3.3-square-mile downtown area where people will be subject to broad restrictions on what they can carry and what they may do.
The rules infringe on privacy but also have an “acute effect on individuals who are homeless” and living downtown, the ACLU said.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media Cleveland police are seeking all the help they can get for July’s Republican National Convention — and they’re finding some from Lorain County officers.