National Guard Deployed for Protests in Cleveland Ahead Presidential Debate

September 29, 2020 Updated: September 29, 2020

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams confirmed Monday that the National Guard will be deployed in the city to deal with protests during the debate between President Donald Trump and Democrat nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday night.

“They’re here to make sure people exercise their constitutional rights,” Williams said of the National Guard, according to WKYC. He emphasized that the National Guard will be there to support law enforcement.

The National Guard arrived in the northeastern Ohio city on Monday.

“Our force specifically trains to focus on working closely with law enforcement in order to avoid any type of escalation or use of force,” Lt. Col. Audrey Fielding of the National Guard told the station. “Our number one focus is to treat everyone we encounter with dignity and respect and that’s what we’ll do over the next couple of days.”

Last week, Jackson asked Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for assistance from the state’s National Guard during the debate.

More than 300 National Guard members were ordered to be deployed, according to a proclamation from DeWine.

Major General John Harris, the Adjutant General of the Ohio National Guard, told WTOL-11 that heavy reinforcements were there to ensure that “everybody has a chance to express their First Amendment rights” in a safe manner. “We’re hopeful that just having a presence, a large enough presence in the right places, will prevent any further necessity,” he told the station.

“Cleveland has been a peaceful place lately,” Mayor Frank Jackson said in a news conference. “Let’s keep it that way and show people how great Cleveland is.”

When asked about whether there will be a curfew on Tuesday, Jackson said it is “not our plan to impose a curfew pre-debate,” while adding that “what happens during the debate will determine what decision we make.”

Last week, Jackson asked Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for assistance from the state’s National Guard during the debate.

Photos uploaded to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s website showed many National Guard officials on the streets of Cleveland, including around the Cleveland Clinic, which is the site of Tuesday night’s 90-minute debate. It was also sealed off by several iron fences. Camouflaged Humvee vehicles were also seen in the photos.

Black Lives Matter organizer LaTonya Goldsby said a “Presidential Debate Protest” is being organized for during the debate.

“This presidential debate has just created chaos within the city,” Goldsby told WKYC.