Cleveland Police Union Asking Governor to Suspend Open Carry Law

(Bloomberg) -- The president of the Cleveland police union said he’s planning to ask Ohio Governor John Kasich to declare a state of emergency and ban the open carrying of weapons in the city during the Republican National Convention, a request the governor said he can’t grant.

Detective Steve Loomis of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association said union attorneys are drafting a request to Kasich and plan to submit it on Sunday after news media reported that three officers were fatally shot and three others wounded in Baton Rouge.

“It’s taking away our interest from where it should be focused,” Loomis said by phone on Sunday about the open carrying of weapons during the convention.

The governor said while he’s sympathetic to the concerns of law enforcement, he doesn’t have the authority.

“Law enforcement is a noble, essential calling and we all grieve that we’ve again seen attacks on officers,” Kasich spokeswoman Emmalee Kalmbach said by e-mail. “Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested.”

President Barack Obama on Sunday condemned the second deadly attack on a U.S. police force in as many weeks.

‘No Justification’

“These are attacks on public servants, on the rule of law, and on civilized society, and they have to stop,” Obama said in a statement. “We may not yet know the motives for this attack, but I want to be clear: there is no justification for violence against law enforcement. None.”

The specter of unrest and potential violence hangs over the convention in Cleveland, with the volatile mix of daily demonstrations planned by groups both for and against Donald Trump and uneasiness following the shooting of officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday and in Dallas on July 7.

The “open carry” of firearms by those allowed to have weapons is a legal activity in Ohio, according to a state attorney general’s manual. Weapons are not allowed inside the arena where the convention will be held or in the secure area around it.

‘Needs to be Done’

“Don’t tell me it can’t be done,” Loomis said of his request to Kasich. “It needs to be done.”

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams was asked about the state’s open-carry law on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, and said it’s always a challenge when firearms and the public mesh.

“But we’ve had open carry scenarios in this city before. And we’ve handled them,” Williams said. “We plan to handle them the same way as we always have. Of course, we’ve ramped that up a little as far as our technique and our tactics to handle them. But in this state, everyone has the right to open carry. And we want to make sure people do that safely.”

Williams said police have changed their tactics in response to recent attacks including the one in Nice, France, on July 14 by placing barriers or barricades at key streets and intersections downtown.

Converging in Cleveland

“Things that happen around the country and around the world do affect to some degree how we respond here in Cleveland,” Williams said.

The city has issued permits for groups and individuals to rally in city parks, march on a designated parade route, or appear at specific times on a speaker’s platform in Public Square from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

“We’ve heard reports from different sources about everyone from anarchists, to black separatists, to, you know, just regular Trump followers, anti-Trump followers,” Williams said on CBS. “Everybody has been, you know, in some way, shape, or form touted as coming to Cleveland to either cause trouble or to exercise their first amendment rights. But we’re prepared for it all.”