CLEVELAND – As 50,000 people descend on Cleveland this week for the Republican National Convention, security is one of the main topics on the minds of organizers, attendees, and Cleveland residents, amid concerns over the potential for protests and violent clashes.
Sunday afternoon, before the start of the convention, numerous streets around Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, the site of the convention, were blocked off to traffic. An estimated 3,000 police officers, 500 of them from Cleveland, are on hand to secure the city. Some came from elsewhere in Ohio, others came from as far away as the California Highway Patrol.
More than 4,000 U.S. government personnel will also be on hand, representing agencies including the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Coast Guard.
Cleveland officials have faced criticism that the city's police force is not properly trained or equipped to keep the peace.
"We have planned, we have 'what-if'ed,' we have table-topped this from day one to yesterday, and everything that can and will happen we have planned for," Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said last week. But authorities have been tight-lipped about preparations, with Williams declining to elaborate, citing their "sensitive" nature.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith, who grew up in Cleveland, and has friends in the city’s police department, says lots of planning has gone into security for such a large and high-profile event. His contacts indicate quiet concern among law enforcement, some of that due to insurance considerations for out-of-area officers, some of whom had come from California.
“They’re telling me they do have a unique set of problems here,” Smith said, “because you have a large convention here, so many people are for the candidate Trump and so many people are against.”
Smith also referred to the potential dangers, following recent attacks on police across the country.
“You’re going to have large numbers of police in areas, where the shooter in Dallas was able to shoot several police officers together, and there’s no way to avoid that," Smith said.
The preparations seemed to put Cleveland residents at ease, as delegates, party activists, journalists, and others descended on their city.
“A lot of law enforcement, so I think we feel safe,” said Henry Williams. “We’re from here, this is our hometown and we feel good about it. We just want to impress the rest of the country and let everybody know, Cleveland is open for business.”
Randy Bishop, an elected alternate delegate from Michigan, felt the convention could be a potential target for terror attacks, but felt safe, given the security measures.
“I think the police presence and the way they’ve coordinated the efforts are very good, I feel very secure here,” Bishop said. “Haven’t noticed any protesters, no incidents at all.”
The convention formally begins Monday at 1 p.m. News4JAX will be speaking with members of the Florida delegation Monday and throughout the week, with live reports throughout the day as well as updates on News4JAX.com.