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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Property Owners Express Concerns to Scene About Violence in Cleveland: UPDATE

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2015 at 2:15 PM

This story has been updated to reflect inaccuracies in reporting. A previous version reported incorrectly that Ohio City Inc., a nonprofit CDC, had held a meeting in preparation for the Michael Brelo trial verdict. That was not the case.

OCI Executive Director Thomas McNair told us that there was no such meeting and reiterated an official statement from the organization's Facebook page: "I assure you that we know of no immediate threats to safety and trust the precautionary measures and planning being led by the City of Cleveland. Any threats to safety learned by the City of Cleveland will be communicated and dealt with immediately."

Scene apologizes for the misinformation.

But following an inquiry into Cleveland businesses' own emergency planning, we learned that property owners along West 25th Street are indeed talking about the verdict and whatever happens afterward.

One property owner purchased plywood for his tenants' storefronts — to board them up in anticipation of as-yet-unplanned and -unconfirmed riots. Business owners, none of whom would grant use of their names in our reporting, have been talking among themselves, unsure of what to make of the paranoia. Closing down their shops seems to be a stretch, one entrepreneur told us, adding that he would not be doing so.

He added that businesses owners on West 25th have basically been shrugging off the paranoia; there isn't any real fear of any rioting in the area. 

Similarly, a local insurance agency — again, with employees speaking to us anonymously —  has been fielding a spike in calls from downtown Cleveland about how damage from rioting might be covered under various policies. 

Also downtown, the Cleveland Public Library has developed an emergency plan, which includes close communication with the police department. "If there is a situation that happens and we have to put our library on lockdown, we will," CPL Director Felton Thomas said in an internal video message circulated among staff. He reiterated throughout the message that the library — located at East 6th and Superior, as well as at satellite locations throughout the city — is meant to be a safe place amidst any upcoming developments. 

Still: "The mayor recognizes that there is an opportunity for those peaceful protests to turn into something else," Thomas said. 

We asked earlier this week what sort of preparations are being taken ahead of the verdict. We've received a number of responses — based in Ohio City and elsewhere. The messaging has become the story in itself. Scene reported today on a planned counter-protest that is snowballing into something far more aggressive — an event borne out of the emotional seeds sown across the city.

Do feel free to get in touch with other impending plans. Anonymity is fine.

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