‘They may have caught us flat-footed,’ Cleveland council members speak out after violent protests

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CLEVELAND – Cleveland council members are reacting with strong words about how the protests erupted in downtown Cleveland and how prepared the city was to handle it.

“I don’t think anyone was expecting this ,” said Cleveland Council President Kevin Kelley. “Maybe we were lulled into thinking this couldn’t happen here because in the past we had peaceful protests. We didn’t have anything like this so I think they may have caught us flat footed.”

The damage followed peaceful protests that were held downtown Cleveland Saturday to speak out against the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis.

Several outside law enforcement agencies, including the Lake County and Erie County sheriff’s offices, were called in to assist.

Several council members say they believe damage and looting were done by “outsiders and not Clevelanders.”

Kelley added that many downtown businesses already struggling due to the COVID-19 crisis have now been heavily damaged and looted.

“This is nothing more than criminal behavior,” Kelley said. “This doesn’t further justice.”

Councilman Mike Polensek said he went down to observe the protest early Saturday afternoon. He said he saw the protest start to spiral out of control and what happened after left him “furious and disgusted.”

The city of Cleveland has extended its curfew after the downtown protests. The curfew now in effect until 8 a.m. Monday.

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