RNC Prepares For Unrest After Trump's Primary Rallies Turn Violent
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
As soon as it was announced that Cleveland was going to host this year's Republican National Convention, the police there put out bids for riot gear. And that was long before Donald Trump was the GOP nominee. Bracing for street clashes and arrests, attorneys, judges and the police are gearing up for next month's convention. Nick Castele from WCPN's Ideastream in Cleveland reports.
NICK CASTELE, BYLINE: If a sea of demonstrators shows up in Cleveland, look for people wearing neon green baseball caps in the crowd. They call themselves legal observers. And they'll be taking note of how police interact with protesters.
JACQUELINE GREENE: If you see, for example, an arrest occurring, was there a dispersal order given to the crowd before that arrest happened? We would document what type of dispersal order was given, if any.
CASTELE: Jacqueline Greene is a local attorney who coordinates the Ohio chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. She's planning training sessions for attorneys, law students, activists and others who want to take part during this year's RNC. They collect names and badge numbers of officers in the field and observe if police use force.
GREENE: We also teach documentation techniques in terms of how to take photos or video. And we also teach people how to recognize which different law enforcement agencies may be present.
CASTELE: And police will be filming right back. Cleveland plans to deploy a video unit to capture protests on tape.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Forward at a half step.
CASTELE: Officers recorded this video during demonstrations in Cleveland last year. Law enforcement are heard chanting move back as they advance toward protesters and a legal observer in an alley.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Move back. Move back. Move back.
CASTELE: Since then, the city has drawn up a new procedure for mass arrests and dispersals after facing a lawsuit. Separately, police agreed to a series of reforms last year after a Justice Department investigation. And though Cleveland has been buying riot gear for the convention, Deputy Chief Ed Tomba says officers will keep it in reserve.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVCED RECORDING)
ED TOMBA: You won't see officers in personal protective gear unless the situation dictates that they put on that gear.
CASTELE: While no one can say for sure how many people might be arrested during the convention, local judges are not taking their chances.
RONALD ADRINE: We're gearing up to try to be able to handle as many as a thousand people a day coming through our doors. We're hoping we don't have to do that. But we will be running court 24 hours a day.
CASTELE: Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine says judges have cleared their schedules from prior cases for the week so they can focus on new arrests. He's hoping it'll take about 10 to 12 hours from arrest to first appearance in court. Adrine says he wants police to give protesters latitude to speak freely. But, he says, officers will arrest people who cross the line.
ADRINE: And from what I get from the police department, crossing the line primarily will involve individuals who have broken something or broken somebody.
CASTELE: James Hardiman of the Cleveland NAACP says that while some demonstrators may plead to resolve their cases quickly, others could spend weeks in court fighting their charges.
JAMES HARDIMAN: It's almost a guarantee that some of the legal work will last past the RNC and past the time that all the Republicans have packed their bags.
CASTELE: To handle the expected demand, public defenders and volunteer defense attorneys plan to be on call all week. For NPR News, I'm Nick Castele in Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.