I-TEAM: New evidence shows vandalism and looting downtown were organized

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CLEVLEND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-TEAM has uncovered new evidence that the violent protests downtown were organized. And, we found a national underground network to cause chaos.

Multiple law enforcement sources tell the I-TEAM they’ve gathered more evidence showing the vandalism and looting downtown Saturday didn’t just happen to break out. They believe organized troublemakers helped set it off.

Investigators say they could tell by what some people in the crowd wore or by what they said to each other in the streets or by how they started the chaos.

It all began with a protest over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota, but that protest exploded.

Eric Feinberg is not surprised outsiders disrupted that protest. Feinberg researches the fringes of the internet for a group called the “Coalition for a Safer Web.”

He showed the I-TEAM an underground network to track protests and police.

He said clearly the people who came here to riot have no interest in justice for George Floyd.

“No, they’re here to cause havoc,” he said.

He spoke about the information getting shared on back channels.

“You can see what’s going on in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and say,  ‘Hey, I want a piece of it.’ Started out as a national page of protests or riots. They’re now separating them out.”

“And, they’re patching into police scanners. So, basically, giving tactical information to the protesters or rioters to either avoid or engage with law enforcement.”

The I-TEAM has learned the protest here turned into rioting and looting when people carrying backpacks showed up. Investigators even heard some giving instructions to others” ‘Do this” or “Don’t do that.”

*Read more on the protests, here.*

And listen to what the Cuyahoga County Sheriff says happened right outside the Justice Center.

“They started throwing, like, heads of lettuce and broccoli. Then, the bottles started coming. Water bottles, glass bottles,” said Sheriff David Schilling.

The sheriff says investigators are now trying to identify the instigators.

“We believe these are individuals that travel throughout the country to these types of events where they’re intent on causing trouble,” he explained.

Now, it will take a very long time to recover from the trouble in downtown Cleveland

Monday afternoon, the sheriff said the number of arrests tied to the disturbance had risen to 99.

The I-TEAM checked dozens of addresses of people arrested, and we found them all from NE Ohio.

Sources tell us by the time police started making arrests on Saturday evening, the instigators had disappeared.

*See our latest investigative stories, here.*

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