Not Fooling Around: 71 Arrested During Protests After Cleveland Officer's Acquittal
Cleveland police were taking no chances in the wake of the acquittal of police officer Michael Brelo, going to great lengths to ensure that Saturday afternoon's peaceful protests didn't evolve into violent riots like Baltimore and Ferguson have experienced in recent months.
In addition to having the National Guard on standby, police followed protesters through the streets and arrested anyone who acted violently or refused to obey police orders to disperse. A total of 71 people were arrested, including one journalist who left his press pass at home.
"We only moved into make arrests when things got violent and protesters refused to disperse," [Police Chief Calvin] Williams said. "We wanted to make sure people understand we are going to help you in this process, but if things turn violent, we will take action to preserve safety."
While most of the protests were peaceful throughout the day, Williams said, "things got more aggressive" in the early afternoon hours.
The first incident happened on Huron Avenue outside Quicken Loans Arena. Three people were arrested there.
Williams said that one of the protesters picked up a restaurant sign and threw it at a bar patron walking into the building. The sign hit that person in the head. Williams said two others tried to fight with police while that person who threw the sign was being arrested.
Another fight broke out between protesters and patrons of Greenhouse Tavern after demonstrators went to the East 4th Street restaurant strip. Four others were arrested there.
Two more were arrested about a half-hour later on Euclid Avenue near East 8th Street. Williams said some protesters there used pepper spray on bar patrons who were standing outside.
The final clash came after protesters ended up blocked into Johnson Court between West 6th Street and West 9th Street.
Williams said police reported seeing "random acts of violence" between protesters and patrons of the popular nightlife area. Williams said police made dozens of commands for the protesters to disperse.
He said they then decided the situation became dangerous for the bystanders, protesters and police officers. Dozens were arrested there, including Northeast Ohio Media Group crime editor Kris Wernowsky, who was later released.
"When people are given a command to disperse from what started off as a lawful protest and degenerated into random acts of violence against people just standing on the street, we have to move in and enforce our laws," Williams said. "And that's what we did."
Williams said that police will not be in riot gear "unless i'ts appropriate" but added that officers will continue to escort protesters throughout the city.
The Cavaliers will play Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night. LeBron James has called for peace. "For the city of Cleveland, let's use our excitement or whatever passion that we have for our sport tomorrow, for the game tomorrow night, bring it tomorrow night ... our team we'll try to do our best to give it back to them," James said following the Cavaliers' light workout on Saturday.
The approach the city of Cleveland is taking seems to be working. No businesses were looted or destroyed on Saturday and there were no reports of injuries. The streets have thus far been calm on Sunday as well.
Also, this is insane. Someone needs to get these babies out of traffic and explain to this father that putting your children in danger in order to make them props for your cause is not cool: