Despite fears, Cleveland convention security a success

Police, state troopers and other security forces are seen outside the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 20, 2016, on the third day of the Republican National Convention. Police arrested several people as clashes erupted when protesters tried to burn American flags.
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images

Predictions of rowdy protests and unrest had Cleveland on high alert for the Republican National Convention, but in the end most of the security fears went unfounded.

"There are a lot of people that doubted us," Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams triumphantly declared at a Friday morning briefing after the convention wrapped up. "Don't doubt Cleveland."

All told, 24 people were arrested in connection with the convention, according to the City of Cleveland as of about 2 a.m. Friday. That number is well below the 1,000 local beds officials had cleared for potential mass arrests.

The bulk of those arrests came during one event, with 18 arrests made during a flag-burning incident that led to the assaulting of two law enforcement officers and charges for failure to disperse or resisting arrest.

In comparison, during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, nearly 300 people were arrested on the first day alone, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson likewise spoke of the city's success in overcoming doubts about its ability to host the convention Friday morning.

"There were others who questioned whether or not we could do this, but I think the proof is in the pudding," Jackson said.

Aside from the flag-burning incident, most protests went relatively smoothly despite concerns that the nomination of divisive Republican nominee Donald Trump would spur rowdy demonstrators.

With public officials on heightened alert following police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, more than 5,000 law enforcement officers were in the city to maintain security.

Williams said the city's success was in part due to long-term planning that stretched over the course of more than a year, and some good fortune as well.

"You don't pull off something like this without a little bit of luck and a lot of prayers," Williams said. "The key from the beginning was our planning."

Overall, the city is hoping the successful event will bolster the city's image and future tourism.

"As people think about where they want to live, where they want to locate, where they want to do business, where they want to have their conventions, you know, they look at Cleveland now, because of a successful event," Jackson said. "You could not pay for that kind of marketing."

As the Democrats prepare to gather next week in Philadelphia for their own convention, they will take cues from the smooth operation in Cleveland. Williams said that officers from Philadelphia were in Cleveland to observe the convention.