Republican National Convention: Police presence helping keep the peace

Republican National Convention: Police presence helping keep the peace

By TMN Interns   
Published
Police separate protesters from the crowd at downtown Cleveland's main square. Loree Lewis/Talk Media News

As the nation braced for violence and uproar during the convention to nominate the controversial presidential candidate Donald Trump, no major outbreaks, fights or riots had occurred by Wednesday afternoon.

By LORA-MARIE BERNARD

CLEVELAND (Talk Media News) – Arrests at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland have been scant and local officials credit the large police presence for keeping the calm.

As the nation braced for violence and uproar during the convention to nominate the controversial presidential candidate Donald Trump, no major outbreaks, fights or riots had occurred by Wednesday afternoon. City leaders noted that at times more media had attended the protests than protesters themselves.

The strong showing of law enforcement around the convention perimeter has been key, said Mayor Frank Jackson during a morning news conference. Officers representing more than 100 departments nationwide are in the city to assist the Cleveland police.

Jackson and Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams are meeting with the press twice a day to discuss security and other matters related to the city’s response at the Republican National Convention. Briefings are at the Cleveland Public Auditorium.

“The field command is essential,” Jackson said.  “I’m in the emergency management center and I see it.”

Mayor of Cleveland Frank Jackson and Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams discuss protestors and arrests related to the Republican National Convention. Lora-Marie Bernard/Talk Media News
Mayor of Cleveland Frank Jackson and Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams discuss protestors and arrests related to the Republican National Convention. Lora-Marie Bernard/Talk Media News

From the perimeter to the Quicken Loan Arena, police presence is evident in almost every roadway, alley, business and sidewalk. Some officers work in pairs, but most walk in groups. Some brandish AR-15s and long rifles across their chests while wearing SWAT uniforms, others wear bulletproof vests over standard patrol clothing and others are in summer uniforms.

Jackson said the ability for officers to make instant decisions when they encounter a problem has been paramount. In particular, city leaders lauded the presence of up to 300 bicycle officers who can corral a protest within minutes — racing past convention attendees with gusto and using their bikes in line as a pop-up barricade.

“They can come in and create a physical barrier,” Williams said. He added that he rode with the unit for three hours Tuesday evening after “sporadic” protests ended.

Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia, department spokesperson, said the bikes may be the top take-away from the convention.

“We will be expanding that for sure,” she said in an interview after the press conference.

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Police on bikes use the bikes to form a barricade. Doug Chrisitan/Talk Media News

Some bikes may be gifted to other departments, although the vast majority will remain with the department, she said. Cleveland officers received tactical response training in the use of the special mountain bikes.

“We’ll use them more from a patrol standpoint,” she said. “They’ll be in our neighborhoods and downtown.”

In Williams’ roundup of Tuesday and early Wednesday events, he noted five arrests and agitated protests.

Police on horseback hold a line near one entrance to the RNC. It is a popular protest location. Loree Lewis/Talk Media News
Police on horseback hold a line near one entrance to the RNC. It is a popular protest location. Loree Lewis/Talk Media News

A tense “anarchist” protest ended with bags of urine thrown among different groups resulted and no arrests. City leaders would not name the groups involved but onsite reports stated the early evening incident on Tuesday was among the Westboro Baptist Church, the KKK and Black Lives Matter.

The bags of urine were collected, Williams said, “They didn’t get to keep them.”

Police also arrested and charged two women and a man on Tuesday with misdemeanor offenses for trying to climb a pole and hang a banner.

Earlier, one man was charged with petty theft for trying to grab an officer’s gas mask. The first arrest on Monday involved a woman who was arrested while near a protest platform in Public Square and charged with an outstanding felony warrant and a series of misdemeanors.

Also on Tuesday, a small group of “hooligans” ran through Public Square to East 12th Street. They tried to enter private property, garage doors and enter businesses, Williams said. Police cornered the suspects at Ninth Street and Lakeside.

“They were given an ultimatum to get off the streets and they eventually complied,” Williams said.

Ciaccia said the department would not identify those arrested, saying the force is focused on the numbers and offenses during the convention instead of the individuals.

Williams, a former SWAT officer who rose within the ranks to become the department’s top brass, downplayed an incident where he was shoved by a protestor on Tuesday in Public Square. He said the incident was brief and he did not feel threatened.

“If I’m out there and something happens, I’m not just going sit there,” he said. “I’m still a police officer.”

He said he believed the consistent presence of police and security forces at the Republican National Convention is effective in controlling the crowds. He said he will continue to walk the streets during the convention.

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