CLEVELAND — The needs of the massive militarized police force mobilized for this year’s Republican National Convention are disrupting an entire week of summer classes at a local university.
Jane Morice, crime reporter for cleveland.com, reported that about 300 officers from the California State Highway Patrol and Pittsburgh Police Department were sworn in on Saturday as “special officers” for RNC functions.
An additional 400 Ohio State Highway Patrol officers, along with additional forces from Ohio University, also took part in a swearing-in ceremony.
— Derick Waller Ch. 5 (@derickwallerTV) July 16, 2016
She noted that Ed Tomba, Cleveland’s deputy police chief, confirmed that the exact number of out-of-state law enforcement officers won’t be disclosed until after the convention. Tomba told cleveland.com:
“We’re very, very confident in the numbers we have. We can’t thank the states and municipalities [enough] for stepping up to help us, because they really did. … You hear the word partnership a lot in law enforcement, but they stepped up at one of the most challenging times our country has ever seen in the law enforcement community and in the world itself.”
Of course, those hundreds of out-of-town officers need somewhere to sleep, and a local university has been pressed into service. An announcement from Case Western Reserve University implied that recent events, such as the killings of police in Baton Rouge and Dallas, forced the university to take extraordinary steps to severely limit the amount of people on campus for the week. The statement reads:
“With some exceptions to be delineated within individual schools, faculty have been asked to identify ways to continue classes off campus July 18-21. They may choose to meet in another location, move instruction online, offer assignments that may be completed off campus, schedule additional classes outside of that week, etc.”
The university has also advised students and others living in on-campus summer housing “to consider staying off campus during the week or to live in areas distant from the buildings where police officers and other guests here for the RNC are staying.”
One Case Western professor expressed surprise and outrage at the announcement in an anonymous op-ed for Belt Magazine, a Cleveland-based regional news publisher. The teacher wrote:
“Admittedly, students aren’t being forced out of their dorms. They have the option to stay. Just like classes aren’t being cancelled. They’re just being completely overhauled and compromised. Not only does uprooting classes and students disrupt next week’s ‘educational experience;’ it also distracts students from their studies this week, and it damages their faith in the university’s educational mission. Thank you for your burdensome tuition bill, my students have been told. Now get off our lawn while more important people come to town.”
The professor also complained that students and staff were given an inadequate opportunity to respond.
Even though the convention didn’t formally begin until Monday, early protesters like anti-war activists CodePink were greeted by overwhelming numbers of police, many of them wearing riot armor and gas masks, despite the peaceful nature of events.
Independent media collective Unicorn Riot spotted California Highway Patrol officers on the streets just a day after the ceremony was held to swear them in.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) July 17, 2016
Tomba told cleveland.com:
“Lawlessness will not be tolerated. We’re here to have a peaceful convention. If anybody comes into town and they break the law, we have the resources to deal with them. But if you come in and you exercise your rights in a peaceful, respectful manner, you’re going to have a great experience here.”
Despite promises to respect activists’ freedom of speech and right to peacefully assemble, The Intercept’s Alice Speri reported last month that FBI agents and police officers were already visiting potential protesters in advance of the convention, apparently in an attempt to intimidate them.
— David Menschel (@davidminpdx) July 14, 2016
Michael Nelson, an attorney and the president of the Cleveland chapter of the NAACP, told Speri that he intends to meet with law enforcement about a visit to one of his clients, an anti-police brutality activist.
“Maybe we need to have a discussion about the Constitution,” Nelson said. “Last time we heard of anything like this was when Dr. [Martin Luther] King and [FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover were around.”
Watch “Cleveland police Deputy Chief Tomba speaks on national police partnership for RNC” from cleveland.com:
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