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Cleveland Mayor On Presidential Debate Night: "Very Peaceful And Orderly"

Approximately 760 Cleveland Police officers and officers from neighboring suburbs were dedicated to the two-day event. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
Cleveland Police and other police guarding the Presidential Debate stage.

Updated: 12:11 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson characterized the first 2020 presidential debate held in the city Tuesday night as “very orderly and peaceful,” in a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon.

That assessment, of course, was not a reference to the sparring and interrupting on stage, but rather of the demonstrations that took place in and around the debate site at the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University Health Campus.

Jackson thanked federal, state and local law enforcement partners as well as the public and “those who came to exercise their constitutional rights” for keeping the peace.

“On the whole, it was very peaceful and orderly as demonstrations and protests go,” Jackson said. “And our goal was to ensure a successful debate in terms of what happened external to that debate venue itself.”

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said four arrests were made on Tuesday. 

“They range from things like driving under suspension to an incident that happened with the attempted petty theft of some of our field force equipment from an officer,” Williams said Wednesday. “And we are in the charging process with those four individuals.”

City officials said approximately 760 law enforcement officers were dedicated to the presidential debate over a two-day period, including officers from the Cleveland police force and neighboring suburbs like Shaker Heights and Strongsville. About 300 Ohio National Guardsmen also were deployed to Cleveland on Monday morning to help patrol and guard the debate “event zone.”

The public safety cost to the city – including police, fire and EMS – is “somewhere between $450,000 and $500,000,” Williams said, most of which “will be reimbursed by the Cleveland Clinic itself. And we're still working out details with some of the other costs associated with the event, between ourselves and the Clinic.”

Williams also commented on the Shaker Heights police officer who was seen giving the middle finger to marchers as his patrol drove by. The protesters were part of a group organized by Black Lives Matter Cleveland and other climate and social justice groups.

“The incident was addressed shortly after it happened by that commander from Shaker Heights. That officer was relieved and taken off the detail that night when that was brought to that Shaker Heights Commander’s attention,” Williams said. “And that's the way we expect our partners to operate here in the city of Cleveland. And that commander for Shaker did exactly what you're supposed to do.”

Late Wednesday, The Shaker Heights Police Department announced the officer had been put on administrative leave, pending an investigation.

“The Shaker Heights Police Department unequivocally supports the right of Black Lives Matter and all demonstrators to peacefully protest,” the department said in a press release. “We explicitly condemn any action by a police officer that interferes with or disrespects the rights of citizens to demonstrate."

Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”