What’s orange and green and black and white and bloody all over? Cleveland’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade by about 3 p.m.
A mix of perfect weather, plentiful booze, and thousands of stumbling drunks resulted in one of the most festive St. Patrick’s Days in downtown history — but also one of the most chaotic.
Fights broke out along the parade route by mid-afternoon, with a melee ensuing on Public Square, according to police and eyewitnesses.
“In all my years, I’ve never seen anything like it,” says one downtown cop, who assisted in breaking up fisticuffs throughout the afternoon. “There was no place to go. We were basically sheep herders.
"We just did not have enough police, and the city didn’t want to call guys in for overtime.” He adds that this year’s total force — counting sheriff and RTA patrols — was greater than last year’s.
The messiest action had little to do with bloated Irishmen.
“The problem was, in a nutshell: The parade ended at the same time the Cleveland public school kids got off the RTA at Public Square,” says the cop, noting that most of the violence consisted of black schoolkids hammering one another.
According to the officer’s account, 35 total arrests were made — mostly for public urination, open containers, and other traditional St. Pat’s idiocy. More than 60 arrests were made at last year’s parade. (Official data requested from Cleveland Police was not yet available.)
“I don’t know how this year was less when it was 10 times worse,” says the cop.
“There were just so many people, and you get in that pack mentality. It was a party atmosphere, and everybody was jazzed. Thank goodness no one was seriously hurt.”
Among the few noted injuries: One police officer broke his ankle.
“But when police get hurt it doesn’t matter,” says an unscathed cop. — Erich Burnett