Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said Thursday that he doesn't expect protesters to follow a new city law requiring them to obtain permits, or at least alert the police chief, before blocking traffic.
And he acknowledged during a news conference at City Hall that the law went unenforced this week, while demonstrators filled the streets in protest of a grand jury's decision not to indict two police officers for the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
"They're protesting," Jackson said. "And in most protests, if you do it according to the rules or in a certain way, you probably wouldn't get much attention. ... We understand that they haven't pulled permits. We understand that they're breaking the law by blocking intersections and that they're doing it at rush hour for maximum effect. But civil disobedience is a part of protesting."
The mayor's comments call into question the purpose and efficacy of the new ordinance, which City Council passed in July amid controversy and at the administration's request.Council President Kevin Kelley was not available for comment Thursday.
The new rules call for anyone planning to hold a demonstration to apply for a permit at least four days in advance. Among the materials required to obtain a permit: the name, address and contact information for the group, the date, time and duration of the parade and a description and aerial street map of the route that would be traveled.
An "impromptu" demonstration – defined as a parade announced spontaneously within two days of the assembly, usually in response to news of the day -- requires the organizers to contact the chief's office with eight hours notice and provide much of the same information.
Protesters are not required to alert the chief ahead of time if they stay on the sidewalk and do not impede pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
Police Chief Calvin Williams said during the news conference Thursday that none of the dozens of demonstrators that took to the streets in the past few days -- disrupting traffic at intersections for hours -- had called his office to provide the information required by the ordinance.
Williams said that he used his discretion in deciding not to enforce that law, which does not define a penalty. Instead, the chief said he ordered his officers to approach protesters with leniency, de-escalate confrontations when they occur and make arrests only if protesters threaten public safety or destroy property.
At numerous points during Wednesday evening's protests downtown, demonstrators filled the street, while an officer on a loudspeaker threatened to arrest anyone who blocked traffic.
The protesters ignored the warnings and were not arrested or issued citations.And when protesters formed a circle, blocking off the entire intersection of Ontario Street and Prospect Avenue, the police again told them they would be arrested if they did not move.
But no one was cited or arrested, even though the crowd stayed for about 45 minutes.
Williams said Thursday that he, himself, was stuck in traffic on account of the protests. He described it as a minor inconvenience, similar to the traffic drivers experience during sporting events downtown."This is what happens in a democracy," Williams said. "People have a right to get out there and express themselves, and the Division of Police is there to protect them while they do that."No, Mr. Williams: this is what a racial democracy looks like, which is more and more resembling a racial theocracy, where white people must forever tithe to support. Sadly, they have no indulgences to purchase which will secure freedom from this growing religion.
Tell me again why I should be upset about the situation in Oregon, when black elected leaders refuse to use the law to stop their racial comrades from engaging in whatever lawless behavior they wish to participate in?