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Cleveland police chief: 23 arrests so far during RNC, open-carry not really an issue

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CLEVELAND - The first two days of the Republican National Convention saw only five arrests in the city of Cleveland.

That changed on Wednesday, day three, after 17 people were arrested and two officers were assaulted at a march and flag burning protest.

Of those arrested, 2 people were charged with felonies for assaulting the officers. Neither sustained any serious injuries.

The other 15 people were charged with misdemeanors.

On Thursday morning, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams gave the first of their two daily updates on safety in Cleveland.

Talking about the orders to disperse the crowd during the flag burning on Wednesday, Chief Williams said that warnings to leave were given over loudspeakers, on the ground and also by him to several protesters. The orders were given three times.

The decision to disperse the crowd was given because of "violence being perpetrated," according to the Chief.

The initial protester who had wanted to burn a flag decided not to. It was after that the second group of protesters arrived and began their burning.

No one was arrested immediately after the flag was burned. There was a police lieutenant on scene  who was trying to put out the fire on the flag and on one of the protesters. The Chief recounted that the officer kept telling the protester that he was on fire and he was trying to help. Some thought he was using pepper spray but instead, he was using a fire extinguisher.

"But then the crowd was pulling him off and basically struck the Lieutenant and that's when  our officers intervened and said 'wait a minute,' and the crowd basically got  pushed into a corner," said Williams.

That's when the threat to safety became imminent and they were asked to leave and they wouldn't.

As for the issue of Ohio's open-carry law, the chief said that it really hadn't been an issue at all. "Nobody’s been arrested or has challenged the things we asked them to do," he said.

Asked to comment on how he thought things had gone this week, Chief Williams said that there is still one day left to go, and while there were no expectation set as to how many might be arrested, "For me, one arrest is too many. Right now I’m kind of disappointed to be honest. "

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