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I-Team: Why does it cost more to hold a peace rally than to protest in the streets?

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CLEVELAND-- The FOX 8 I-Team is investigating why it costs more to hold a peace rally in Cleveland than to protest in the streets.

The Sea of Blue group is planning a rally with prayer to speak out against violence and support police Saturday at Mall C downtown, but the group can’t believe some of the costs tied to permits it may need.

Meantime, protesters shut down the Cleveland Shoreway last November speaking out against police, and others blocked downtown streets last May after an officer was cleared of two deadly police shootings. Those protesters did not have permits or get charged fees.

The group said it sent Cleveland City Hall $200 to reserve Mall C.  But the group would have to spend more money to plug something in there or have a small stage put up. And it would cost more to close a lane of traffic, plus possibly hundreds more for insurance.

“I was heartbroken,” said Mary Jo Graves, one of the organizers. “We don’t have that kind of money. All we want to do is something good for the city of Cleveland.”

Cleveland city leaders said charges are not new for using city spaces such as Mall C.  And some costs are tied to union contracts for city workers. For instance, the city said it’ll cost you $110/hour to have something plugged in. That must be done by a union electrician.

“This isn’t the first time people have asked ‘why the fees?’" said Michael Cox, speaking for the city. “When people come in this is explained to them, not only the cost of using the Malls, but the cost of labor for the Malls.”

As for the cost to taxpayers for the protests, the I-Team asked several months ago for the cost of keeping the streets safe after the officer was cleared. The city has never provided an answer.

The mayor’s office pointed out, a new law just took effect restricting protesting in the streets. So there should be no more sudden blocking of the Shoreway.

The Sea of Blue rally is set for Saturday at 11 a.m. on Mall C downtown. The schedule includes speakers plus prayers for the city for families of loved ones lost due to violence and for police. The group is also collecting donations of food, socks, gloves and hats for the poor.

*More on the Sea of Blue here*