Anticipating massive demonstrations in the streets during the Republican National Convention in mid-July, Cleveland police authorities are using emergency funds to stock up on the latest in crowd control equipment — armoring themselves as if they are going to war.
According to the Washington Post, Cleveland officials are using a $50 million “security grant” to beef up security around the convention, but are not tipping their hand on everything that they have purchased which is alarming some civil liberties groups concerned about the rights of protesters.
Local police will be overseeing what they describe as “event zones,” where rallies, marches and other protests will be allowed to take place, with the Secret Service responsible for the “secure perimeter,” nearest to the convention hall.
Cleveland police are rumored to have obtained LRAD’s (Long Range Acoustical Device) normally used to keep pirates from boarding ships by emitting a non-lethal, but painful, beam of sound to drive people away, making it a popular tool for riot control.
Police have admitted that they have loaded up on riot gear — including full body armor — 2,000 retractable steel batons, 10,000 sets of plastic handcuffs, 16 Pointer Illuminator Aiming Lasers, security cameras, and riot-control staple tear gas — while keeping funds in reserve for anticipated overtime pay for officers who will have their hands full.
It is the unknown purchases that have civil libertarians worried, who also note that much of the equipment purchased stays long after the crowds are gone.
“There is a balance that has to be struck between security and civil liberties,” said Joycelyn Rosnick of the Ohio chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild. “We know right now that they have 2,000 sets of riot gear and that body cameras can’t be attached to the gear they bought. We know that other cities have used these events to obtain equipment for large crowd control and surveillance that doesn’t leave town when the event is over, potentially changing how the city will be policed. But there is really just so much we do not know. And that’s what is really worrying.”