The Whole World Is Watching
by John Delach
June of 1996 found me in Chicago at my firm’s local office. As a laugh, one of the Chicago lads presented me with a souvenir tee-shirt remarking, “I thought you’d get a kick out of this. They’re being sold as fund raisers by our local PAL.”
The shirts were a spoof on the 1996 Democratic National Convention (DNC) scheduled to be held that August in the United Center, Chicago’s indoor sports arena. Written across the front of the shirt:
Welcome to Chicago.
We kicked your parents’ asses
And we’ll kick yours too!
A story in the Boston Globe on March 19, 2016 by Tracy Jan resurrected this memory. The headline for Ms. Jan’s piece read:
Cleveland prepares for unrest at GOP convention
Ah, once again, it’s all about The Donald! Usually gatherings of the Grand Old Party are about as exciting as curling tournaments but not this year. No, no, no; thanks to the level of rhetoric, the police who patrol the “Mistake on the Lake” are nervous. Ms Jan noted with a bit of hyperbole that Cleveland will host the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July: “…during one of the most tumultuous presidential elections in decades…”
(Editorial note: Me thinks if other members of the fifth estate start banging out copy with like incendiary language the result will be; if thou write it, it may happen and thou shall be the cause. Be careful what you write.)
Ms Jan continued: “… amid concerns from its police union that the city is not moving fast enough to secure riot gear, train personnel, and ensure there will be enough officers on the streets.”
There is a valid point to be noted here. While Cleveland has secured a grant of $50 million in federal security funds to outfit the department in 2,000 so called riot-control “turtle suits” featuring upper body, shoulder, elbow and forearm protectors, hard knuckle gloves, shin guards and ”26-inch collapsible batons”, they have only asked for bids on these suits with expected delivery by June 1, “a month and a half before the convention.”
Ms Jan interviewed the former police chief of Charlotte, Rodney Monroe, who oversaw security for the DNC in 2012. Discussing the timing in Cleveland, Chief Monroe noted to Ms Jan, “Good luck with that one. In most cases, there was a three-month lag time for ordering. We had to get that one in early. All of our officers were issued their equipment three months prior to the convention.”
The Cleveland cops will have 45 days to prepare if all goes as planned with no delays.
Likewise, standard guidelines call for a security force of between 4,000 and 5,000 officers to be available during an event of this magnitude. But Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association told Ms Jan, “…thus far, only 1,800 officers, including Cleveland police and those outside the city, have been committed, a number neither the city nor Secret Service would confirm.”
Most of the 2,200 to 3,200 additional officers will come from out-of-state requiring the city of Cleveland and, perhaps, the state of Ohio, to pass temporary laws and/or ordinances giving these “foreign” officers the same jurisdiction as if they were members of the Cleveland police force. While Ms Jan didn’t address indemnification, it is a safe bet to presume that any police departments that offer the services of their staff will demand a blanket hold harmless for themselves and those officers which the city of Cleveland and/ or its insurers will have to assume.
Granted, it would be a stretch to re-visit the insanity that surrounded the DNC circa Chicago-1968 when all hell broke loose and Mayor Richard Daley went to war with Jerry Rubin, his Yippies; Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Bobby Seale, Alan Ginsberg, etc. A sea of chaos ensued, headlines read, “Riots Erupt”, “Violence Takes Hold” and “The Battle of Chicago” while for days and nights the endless chant continued; “The whole world is watching.”
It would be a good bet to say that the city fathers never expected the kind of direction the 2016 campaign would take when they proudly made their bid to host the convention! How could they? Nevertheless, they must quickly take stock now that it may no longer be business as usual.
Cleveland may not have the luxury that common sense will prevail so those in charge on the federal, state and city level must be prepared to maintain good order let protesters vent and hope they break even on this event.