COPS CLAMP DOWN IN CLEVELAND

by: Randy Lee Payton & John Woods


Item #1: On April 28 a benefit art gala is held at "The Warehouse" (the Centrax Laser Productions space at 3996 Hamilton) to raise funds for the scholarship fund at The Cleveland Institute of Art, The event was to feature poetry, dance and music. In attendance were several local and out-of-town "investors," who came, with their checkbooks to support Cleveland's artistic and cultural community. Before the event could begin, or before a checkbook could be drawn, the fundraiser was shut-down by officials of the City of Cleveland, and their order was enforced by the Cleveland Police.

Item #2: On the following night, April 30, at the same "Warehouse" location, a Monkey Paw Productions "Buzz Pit" show featuring Cleveland bands Environmental Hazzard, Screwtractor and Glock is raided and shut down by dozens of uniformed and plain-clothes cops, who arrived with at least a dozen firemen with huge hook and ladder trucks.

The "official" excuse used for closing down these two events was a city zoning ordinance dating back to the 1800's which forbids any type of dance or music performed in that particular area. Ironically, directly across the street from "The Warehouse" is a bar. We wonder who, and what were the reasons behind these actions? (for more about the "Buzz Pit" raid, see article by John Woods, who was there, on page 11.)

Item #3: On the weekend of May 6, Mayor Mike White and "his" Cleveland Police invaded, threatened and terrorized "The Flats" district. (an area of Cleveland consisting of mostly music clubs, restaurants and bars.) The insurging army was comprised of heavily armed motorcycle cops, anti-gang units and cops in riot gear. Street and traffic pedestrians were hassled everywhere, including several bands doing their "load-in's" at clubs they were playing. All street parking was banned, forcing everyone into nearby lots, who took full advantage of this "police action" by quickly raising their prices from $4 to $6.50.

Using the same old, worn out dribble that Tipper Gore used against the recording industry back in 1985, and the same old line of shit that Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) recently threatened the TV industry with, Mayor White flexed his muscles before the TV news cameras as he warned "The Flats" club owners, "to either clean up their act or they would do it for them. As the TV taped rolled, His "Honor" pointed his finger and shook his fist as he referred to patrons of businesses in The Flats as "no good scum."

Item #4: In early May, Cleveland Police removed coinboxes containing The Cleveland Free Times, an alternative weekly, known for being critical of the mayor's office and the police. Reasons cited for the seizure included "rust," "no license posted," etc., though as Cleveland's Channel 3 News reported, many of the Plain Dealer's (and other) coinboxes could be found aplenty with the same infractions. While Free Times considers legal action, many citizens are aghast at such ham-fisted, politically motivated, selected enforcement of obscure regulations to harass dissident voices in the city.

What is going on in Cleveland?

At a time when Cleveland is poised to take its place in World Class Culture, recognized for its bands, arts and (soon) the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the city's Police Department and various city officials seem hell-bent on stomping any such aspirations into the dust.

For instance, what about those "investors" in attendance at the April 29th fundraiser, who were reportedly interested in various culturally-based efforts around town? The cops made for a terrible "welcome wagon" to the new, aspiring club space and even worse as a "first impression" for out-of-towners. With the tourism, arts and nightlife scene so integral to Cleveland's future economic development, calls should come from a spectrum of Cleveland's citizenry to Mayor White and the Cleveland Police Department to PULL BACK on such clumsy, heavy-handed tactics.

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