Residents living near presidential debate event zone worry about repeat of May riots


CLEVELAND (WJW) — We are just days away from the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic.

“From residents, the biggest concern is that nobody wants a repeat of May 30th,” said Ward 6 Cleveland City Councilman Blaine Griffin.

He recalls how a peaceful demonstration that day ended with acts of violence. 

“Both sides claim that these are the kind of communities that they’re fighting for,” he said.

Saturday afternoon, Griffin met with residents at Quincy Park in the Fairfax neighborhood, just blocks away from the debate stage at census and voter registration event. There, he and other city leaders tried to reassure residents the city is being proactive.

“They [the residents] respect everybody’s right to peacefully protest, they just don’t want anyone to damage their personal property,” he explained.

“We clean, we do everything on our street, so we want our street to be safe and we want it to stay that way,” said Mary Keith who lives in the area.

Law enforcement gave people advice on what to look out for. 

“Like making sure that safety cameras are on, if you see something suspicious, like a car which we’ve recently seen that just didn’t fit the mold of the neighborhood, they called it in,” said Griffin.

Griffin says the debate will also give a stage for the neighborhood to share its rich history. 

“To talk about institutions like Karamu House, to talk about how we have great people that lived in the neighborhood like Langston Hughes, Jesse Owens and you know John O’Holly,” he said.

He also spoke of the future and the investments he says the Cleveland Clinic is making to better the rough relationship with the community that has existed.

“Eliminate health disparities, take advantage of the research and development that they have,” he said.

Tuesday’s political volley could also address other residential concerns. 

“We have the opportunity to have the two most powerful men in the world to come in our community and talk about issues that matter to us,” said Griffin.

But there is still the immediate concerns of safety and security around the upcoming debate. 

“I won’t say we belayed everybody’s fears, but I do believe people left there today believing that there is a plan in place, assets will be on the ground and we do not anticipate having another event like we had on May 30th,” said Griffin.

He says he and other councilmembers will continue informing and communicating with the surrounding neighborhoods about the changes and plans due to the debate.

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