Photo by Peter Larson
Cleveland City Council's bash brothers, Jeff Johnson and Zack Reed, appeared on WCPN's Sound of Ideas program Tuesday morning to offer perspective on the recent rash of event cancellations in Cleveland.
Prior to the much-decried cancellation of the 28th annual Gay Pride Parade, announced last week, Jeff Johnson had canceled the 39th annual Glenville Festival and Parade due to safety concerns.
"I feel that the boldness and randomness of gun violence occurring weekly in Cleveland, including our area, creates too much uncertainty for the safety of citizens and for law enforcement officers and others working to protect us," he wrote in a letter to his Ward 10 residents at the time.
To WCPN's Rick Jackson, he said that the 22 officers he would have been able to pay for security wasn't sufficient in his mind. Johnson said that in the past two years, security officers have had to "constantly grab gang members" during the celebration, and that this year — coming so close on the heels of the police shootings in Dallas — there was simply too much risk.
Zack Reed, who's 13th annual Family Unity in the Park event at Luke Easter Park on July 30th went off without a hitch, said that Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams provided everything he required to allay concerns about safety.
"We had helicopters, we had Metroparks Rangers, we had officers walking in the crowds," said Reed, who estimated that between 20,000 and 25,000 attended. "If you can protect for one week the 50,000 people that came to Cleveland from Colorado and Nebraska, you can protect for one day the people in Cleveland's neighborhoods."
Johnson said that Cleveland's police shouldn't receive standing ovations for keeping people safe at events.
"It's not impressive that you can keep people safe for one day," said Johnson. "Because on a daily and weekly basis, Calvin Williams and Safety Director Michael McGrath are failing in these neighborhoods. We are under a significant siege."
Johnson and Reed, though approaching from slightly different angles, both lamented the extreme violence
visited upon Cleveland in July (92 shot, 12 killed), and excoriated the silence of Mayor Frank Jackson, who they both said needs to come out publicly and condemn this second consecutive summer of rampant gun death.
Reed, who celebrated the vigilance of New York City mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg (and even favorably quoted Donald Trump), said he'd like to see the city take a more punitive stand on violent criminals. Johnson said he'd like to see more engagement from safety leaders in Cleveland's predominantly black communities, where the relationship between citizens and law enforcement remains strained.
WCPN Host Rick Jackson mentioned that representatives from Cleveland Police declined multiple invites to appear on the program.