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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Cleveland Shelled Out $3 Million in Overtime for May 30 Demonstrations, Aftermath

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 2:29 PM

click to enlarge EMANUEL WALLACE / SCENE
  • Emanuel Wallace / Scene
In a budget presentation to City of Cleveland employees at Public Hall Wednesday, Mayor Frank Jackson said that the city had paid more than $3 million in overtime to cover the heightened security costs of the May 30 downtown demonstrations and the militarized curfew in the week that followed.

Naturally, most of the $3,066,151.68 expended from the already battered city budget were for quote-unquote public safety forces. Additional overtime funds were expended in the Division of Park Maintenance and Properties for street cleanup efforts.



Jackson told a relieved (and largely masked) audience that their city jobs were safe for the time being. He stressed, as he and Council President Kevin Kelley have in recent months, that the city's conservative fiscal approach and more than $40 million in reserves from last year have given Cleveland a sizable cushion to weather the economic storm the pandemic has caused.

He warned, though, that payroll cuts could be forthcoming if the economic downturn continues and tax receipts over the summer are significantly lower than projected. (That's to say nothing of a potential legal challenge that could jeopardize the collection of income taxes from Cleveland workers who live in the suburbs and who have been working from home during the pandemic. The city remains confident that it is legally insulated from such a challenge.)

As Interim Chief of Staff Sharon Dumas noted in a City Council presentation last month, Cleveland has taken measures to reduce expenditures as much as possible during the past several months, including instituting a hiring freeze. Dumas said that city departments were being asked to limit overtime as well. Jackson said Wednesday that due to these efforts, the $3 million spent primarily on police overtime early this month might not have serious effects on the budget by year's end.

Jackson defended the military-style lockdown that he imposed for six days after the demonstrations, even though it resulted in widespread confusion and wrongful arrests.

He argued that thanks to his swift and decisive efforts, the city was spared further unrest — i.e. further damage to private property in the central business district. The May 30 protests in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis did result in a night of looting and rioting downtown, particularly along Euclid Avenue, but businesses were only ransacked after police opened fire on thousands of demonstrators outside the Cuyahoga County Justice Center that afternoon.

Police fired pepper spray, tear gas, flash bang grenades and rubber and wooden bullets without sufficient warning. (Cleveland.com has reported that calls to disperse went almost entirely unheard. Scene vigorously corroborates.) 

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