How The RNC Turned A Private University Into Police Barracks

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In the months leading up to the Republican National Convention, students at Case Western Reserve University were not particularly concerned about the impact the RNC would have on the campus at large. The university is, after all, five miles away from downtown Cleveland, where the majority of events would be taking place, and where protesters and heavily-armed police were expected to crowd the streets during the nomination of lightning-rod candidate Donald Trump. But last month, when an anonymous faculty member alerted law student Amanda King and undergraduate Makela Hayford exactly how involved the university would be in the convention, they were shocked.

“He told us that there would be 1500 police living on our campus,” King told Gothamist. ”At that moment, we had no idea who they would be, what they were doing, and the university was not telling us anything about it.”

King and Hayford, two leaders of the African-American community on campus, immediately began pressing the university for more information. They wanted to know why the private university had agreed to house over hundreds of out-of-state cops in the midst of national divisiveness over the role and judgement of police officers in communities of color. The university is situated in the middle of several African-American neighborhoods, and just down the road from the Cleveland neighborhood of Hough. 50 years ago this week, the National Guard was sent into Hough after residents rioted following attacks by white business owners against middle-class blacks. Meanwhile, Cleveland's police department is currently under federal oversight following widespread abuse by police and the high-profile murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

“The administration released a response after we told them of our concerns, but then they accused us of profiling the police,” Hayford said. “They told us to stop asserting that the police were bad, and that this attitude we were expressing was in direct opposition to the university’s core values. We were infuriated.”

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