CLEVELAND (WJW)– The city is prepared for protests planned in downtown Cleveland this weekend.
The “I Can’t Breathe” Justice for George Floyd protest, organized by Black Lives Matter Cleveland, begins at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Free Stamp on Lakeside Avenue. Floyd died while in Minneapolis police custody, sparking demonstrations across the country.
“People have a right to be angry, people have a right to be upset,” said Mayor Frank Jackson on Friday.
Jackson, along with Police Chief Calvin Williams, is welcoming protesters in downtown Cleveland as long as they are peaceful.
“We are here to protect their rights in terms of demonstrating and protesting. At the same time, we are here to protect the public. Violence and destruction of property will not be tolerated,” Jackson said.
“I stand on both sides of this issue. As a man of color and a police officer who grew up in the city and who cares for the people in it,” Williams said.
Williams said he had a hard time dealing with the video of a police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck. That officer has since been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
“It’s a stain on the good things that a lot of good officers do day in and day out protecting their communities across the country,” Williams said.
Since Floyd’s death, riots have consumed the streets. That anger spreading to Ohio, where peaceful protests turned violent in Columbus.
“You could take this several years back, and just change the name of the city and the pattern of the incident. It’s the same thing repeated again,” Jackson said.
The city acknowledged this time it’s different because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Our officers will have masks when they are involved in this. I understand it’s a different climate here,” Williams said.
City officials said the demonstrations highlight a much bigger issue.
“It should not have happened. That’s not the way any of officers are trained. If you talk to any chief across the country, they will say we don’t train that way,” Williams said.
The city plans to host a virtual townhall meeting Thursday to address safety concerns, as well as the coronavirus.