Cleveland officials divided on protestors needing permits

Cleveland officials divided on protestors needing permits
Protestors link arms on Carnegie Avenue in front of a line of police cars blocking the highway entrance. (Source: WOIO)
Protestors link arms on Carnegie Avenue in front of a line of police cars blocking the highway entrance. (Source: WOIO)
Protesters meet a line of officers outside The Q. (Source: WOIO)
Protesters meet a line of officers outside The Q. (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Protestors have marched several times downtown after two police officers were cleared in Tamir Rice's shooting death. Demonstrators have been given a lot of leeway to express themselves, but are they being given leeway that other groups have been denied?

There has been grumbling in the days since the protests over the grand jury's decision that by allowing protestors to block intersections, the city is allowing, even encouraging, traffic snarling disruptions, which are prohibited by law. The law requires anyone blocking or marching in a street to get a permit.

Protestors have yet to get a permit, which Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says he is aware of and alright with.

"We understand that they haven't pulled a permit. We understand that they're breaking the law by blocking intersections," said Jackson.

The mayor's stance is that the protest law gives discretion to the Chief of Police as to when and where to enforce it.

"Our position is to make sure people are allowed to express their First Amendment rights and do it in a safe way," said Chief of Police Calvin Williams.

Williams defined "safe" as not causing injury to people or damage to property.

"A lot of the design of the protests is to be against whatever laws may be on the books," said the mayor.

Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Steven Loomis has a different view.

"This blocking traffic and breaking laws is not appropriate," said Loomis.

The city's stance rankles Loomis, who was part of the Sea of Blue support rally for police this past summer.

"We had to jump through all kinds of hoops and I had to provide a $200,000 insurance bond to have 400 or 500 of our supporters show up," Loomis explained.

Since much law is based on precedent, the question has to be asked: Is the city setting a precedent in this case?

Looking forward with dozens of protests likely at the GOP convention to be held at the Q this summer, will anyone be allowed to simply block a street or march whenever they want? Or will they have to have a permit?

Loomis is unsure.

"The next rally that we have for the Sea of Blue, I promise you I'm not gonna pull one permit for it," Loomis promised.

Follow the latest developments in the Tamir Rice case.

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