Cleveland Officials Defend Response To Saturday's Protest

protest outside justice center
The scene outside the Justice Center during Saturday's protest. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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Cleveland officials continue to argue that people from outside the region were responsible for the destruction Downtown during what started as a peaceful protest on Saturday.

The city has evidence to prove that while everyone arrested during Saturday's protest in Downtown Cleveland was local, that doesn’t mean they started the violence, said Chief of Police Calvin Williams.

During a Thursday evening virtual town hall, Williams described the instigators outside the Justice Center as professional rioters from outside Ohio.

“We have evidence of this and people will see that pretty soon," Williams said. "Just go on social media, you’ll hear the people of the city of Cleveland talking about all the people that were here from out of town.”

Williams also defended Cleveland police against claims that they played a role in escalating Saturday’s violence. According to Williams, his officers showed restraint under a barrage of items thrown at them from outside the Justice Center.

“Our officers were taking rocks, bricks, concrete, all kinds of water bottles, some were frozen so people could use them as projectiles, and bottles and other things that contained urine," Williams said. "And they took that for a while until I actually gave the dispersal order.”

That dispersal order was given to the protesters by the on-site commander more than three times before officers began using gas cannisters and rubber bullets to push the crowd back.

ideastream video from outside the Justice Center shows a line of officers standing in front of the building entrance being pelted with objects from the crowd before a police official can be seen giving a dispersal order.

The city has asked the public to submit videos and photos from Saturday as the investigation into who was ultimately responsible continues. 

Extending Cleveland’s Curfew

The curfew that ends at 6 a.m. Friday could resume, according to city officials Thursday evening, depending on what happens in the coming days.

Mayor Frank Jackson said protests in Cleveland so far this week have been peaceful.

“As long as they stay that way, then there should be no curfew instituted," Jackson said. "If we have to do it, then we will, but that’s not our preference to do that.” 

Williams said if intelligence indicates disruptions on the horizon or if anything actually happens, he might ask the mayor to restart the lockdown.

In response to a federal lawsuit challenging the curfew, city officials agreed Thursday to let the curfew end as planned Friday morning, only starting new restrictions based on new information.

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