Major General John C. Harris, who leads the Ohio National Guard, said Monday that 300 members of the Guard are headed to Cleveland to help local police handle crowd control ahead of and during the presidential debate Tuesday night. The governor and Cleveland officials also say local law enforcement — and even the local court system — are prepared to handle an influx, in case planned protests spiral out of control.
President Donald Trump and 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will square off at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland at 9 pm EST on Tuesday night, and, according to local media, Cleveland law enforcement is bracing for crowds of protesters. A local Black Lives Matter group is planning a peaceful demonstration to “send a message” to President Trump on Tuesday, but authorities say they don’t yet know whether individuals will travel in from out of state to join the protests, sparking fears of unrest.
“Back in May, a peaceful protest in Cleveland erupted into hours of rioting and looting,” Cleveland’s Fox affiliate reported earlier this week.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine activated around 300 members of the National Guard earlier this week after Cleveland City Hall made an official request for help. The Guard will be on hand to assist with “backup.”
“After receiving a formal request from Cleveland officials last night, I am issuing a proclamation today that activates around 300 @OHNationalGuard members to help @CLEPolice ensure a safe and secure environment for those attending Tuesday’s presidential debate in Cleveland,” DeWine tweeted.
“We’re hopeful that just having a presence, a large enough presence in the right places, will prevent any further necessity. So, that’s our role; is to be present, to support the Cleveland Police and to ensure that everybody has a chance to express their First Amendment rights,” Maj. Gen. Harris, the Adjutant General of the Ohio National Guard told WTOL.
Photos, posted to Cleveland.com, show National Guard vehicles parked at the ready near Case Western, parts of which are sealed off with protective iron fencing, creating a secure perimeter around the debate site.
The city is also making preparations to handle large crowds of arrested individuals if planned demonstrations take a violent or destructive turn, Cleveland’s Fox affiliate reports.
The outlet “found the court system has been preparing. Getting ready to handle a sudden flood of criminal cases if there’s big trouble in the streets and police make what they call mass arrests,” Fox 8 said Monday. “We’ve learned there’s even been talk of setting up a big tent at a city park to temporarily handle a large group of people arrested.”
Federal authorities are also on hand to protect the president and lend a hand to state officials if necessary, the New York Post adds: “he Secret Service is the lead agency for security inside the sealed-off area, while the FBI is also helping local police outside along with the National Guard reinforcements.”