Because of his failure to protect the constitutional rights of protestors, as well as his inability to accept responsibility for his deliberate misrepresentation of the events of the May 30th, 2020 George Floyd protest in downtown Cleveland, the Cleveland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America condemns and calls for the immediate resignation of Cleveland Division of Police Chief Calvin D. Williams.
By the police’s own incident post-mortem, CDP were extremely unprepared. There were no attempts to discuss the planned demonstration with event organizers or other departments until only a few hours before the protest began. CDP drastically underestimated turnout and blamed the event organizers for their own inability to do basic research on the event or to understand the frustrations of those who gathered on that day. This was supposed to be a peaceful protest, but when you live in a society that, for hundreds of years, has villainized and subjugated people due to the color of their skin, it is only natural for tempers to flare when yet another innocent human being is murdered by those we trust to “serve and protect”.
CDP would have you believe the protestors were a well armed, dangerous mob of organized brawlers, looking for a fight. They claim protestors were throwing projectiles like wrenches, baseball bats, concrete, and street signs. In truth, protestors had little more than plastic water bottles, vegetables, and cardboard signs. All video recordings show the heavily armed officers don’t even flinch when an empty water bottle or handful of grapes grazed them. Many of the “aggressive tactics” used by protesters that CDP cited in their report were clearly defensive reflexes that any person would have when being assaulted by another. Batting away a can of mace being sprayed point-blank into your eyes—as multiple videos, reports, and photos from the event showed—is the natural reaction of any individual. CDP’s claims of protestors instigating the violence have been refuted repeatedly by many of the protestors, legal observers, and journalists who were in attendance.
CDP claims they gave 3 orders to disperse within 3 minutes. CDP’s own policies state that they are to wait 5 minutes between the first and second orders, and then wait 3 minutes before the second and third orders. They are also supposed to be given from a vantage point visible to the crowd, and be audibly confirmed by an officer in or behind the crowd. Again, all witnesses present consistently report that no such orders were given or heard.
CDP’s reported timeline of events is extremely inconsistent. According to them, at 3:41 officers were told to “break out [smoke grenades] and pepper balls. Use as necessary” but then 5 minutes later, requested officers with said items to be sent outside. CDP acknowledges that non-violent protestors attempted to act as a barrier, but rather than acknowledging the fact that this was an attempt to de-escalate the situation, they had the audacity to call this a “tactic to prevent the officers from being able to stop the attack”.
CDP’s report conveniently makes no mention of the multiple lawsuits filed against them for the egregious brutality of their officers, including an innocent man who lost his eye because a CDP officer fired munitions at his head. This occurred blocks away from where the protests were happening. This is the same pattern of violent behavior called out by the Department of Justice investigation in 2014.
Rather than take this as an opportunity to learn how to work with local organizers, or improve their planning for events that may “escalate to violence”, CDP has chosen to paint this event as the reason they need more resources. More money, more officers, more weapons, more freedom to abuse Clevelanders, and above all, more control over the populace.
Police Chief Calvin Williams is on record claiming the following (all of which have been disproved):
- Protestors entered the justice center (refuted by Sheriff David Schilling)
- Multiple orders given by law enforcement to disperse were ignored (refuted by legal observers, as well as touched upon by Sheriff David Schilling)
- The “agitators” were from out of state (of all those charged, only 2 were from out of state, and by their own admission, they were there only to watch)
Police Chief Calvin Williams is not a stupid person, but he thinks Clevelanders are. He thinks he can knowingly trot out conflicting, misleading, or outright false information, and that we’ll accept it at face value. We reject CDP’s assertion that their actions were justified, and that they are not responsible for how events escalated that day. These injustices are the reason why we call for Police Chief Calvin Williams to step down.