The DOJ factor: Is Cleveland walking into a buzz-saw?

The DOJ factor: Is Cleveland walking into a buzz-saw?
Narrators-in-chief.

More than two weeks ago – before the massacre of police in Dallas – Breitbart Texas reported a warning from the president of the Cleveland police union, Steve Loomis.  Cops and convention-goers, said Loomis, will be “sitting ducks” at the Republican National Convention, which begins on 18 July, a week from Monday, at Quicken Loans Arena.

Loomis and the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association were worried that the city leadership hasn’t been taking the acknowledged threat of large scale rioting seriously.

The police union head charges that the mayor of Cleveland “just does not get it.” He adds that “Command staff has arrogantly dismissed concerns of officials from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).”

The hope of augmentation from police departments across the country hasn’t materialized, in spite of a $50 million special-event grant from the federal government to cover things like deployment expenses.

Problems include the fact that riot gear for the police force was ordered very late – and apparently, when Lana Shadwick reported on 22 June, had still not arrived in Cleveland.  (Philadelphia’s police, by contrast, have had their riot gear for the Democratic convention for seven months.  That allows them to train with it and adjust it for fit and functionality.)

Issues with expenses – ordering riot gear, getting insurance and deployment compensation for augmentee forces – may well have been related to a strange interlude with the federal special-event grant early in 2016.

The Breitbart report seemed to indicate that the funding was awarded under the auspices of Homeland Security, with the RNC designated as a “special security event.”  But it was actually sought and awarded as a “justice assistance” grant for law enforcement, to be administered by the Justice Department.

The convention funding was included in the federal Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants program, which provides funding for local law enforcement. U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman have pushed for the convention funding. Geauga County Republican Congressman Dave Joyce, as a member of House Appropriations Committee that wrote the spending bill, also was actively involved with the legislative effort.

In the first week of February, the Justice Department blindsided everyone involved by deciding to release the funds to the state of Ohio, instead of to the city of Cleveland.  If local officials or the media ever figured out why, there’s no record of it that I can find.  It took intensive lobbying by the state’s congressional delegation to get DOJ to go ahead and award the funds to the city, as originally expected.

There’s a reason this little event is so interesting.  Cleveland isn’t just any city, as it relates to the U.S. Department of Justice.  Cleveland’s police force has been under the ministrations of the DOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Office, since this small entity’s earliest days (it was established under Bill Clinton in 1994).  And Cleveland is under a COPS-supervised formal consent decree with DOJ today, because of the DOJ’s negative findings after the killing of Tamir Rice in 2014.

The Obama Justice Department has put nearly two dozen cities under consent decrees after finding fault with their police forces.  (Others include Seattle, Denver, Chicago, New Orleans, and Ferguson, Missouri.)  The important thing to understand about this is that Cleveland is not its own master in deciding how it will conduct police operations for the convention.  Everything the city police force plans to do has to be approved by the federal monitor contracted to keep tabs on “progress” and compliance with the consent decree.

A DOJ-linked entity – the monitor – is thus already embedded in Cleveland’s police administration.  So it is doubly puzzling why the Department of Justice would want to divert the special RNC funding through the state of Ohio.

The whole picture is so disjointed, frankly, that it’s quite possible someone hoped to benefit Cleveland by distributing the funds through the state.  But we don’t know enough to draw a conclusion one way or another.

The consent decree and its administrators

Here are some of the things we do know, however.  One is who the monitor is for the consent decree.  The non-profit group contracted by the city is the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC), a Los Angeles-based entity that is part of the Vera Institute of Justice.  Both PARC and the Vera Institute have A-list connections on the radical left.

PARC was formed in the 1990s by attorney Merrick Bobb in the wake of the Rodney King verdict and the LA riots.  Bobb himself has served as a monitor for DOJ consent decrees, most recently (and currently) with the city of Seattle, where he threatened the city when officials questioned items (like liquor and $35 pillow cases) in his expense report, and where 125 police officers filed suit in 2014 to stay the use-of-force policies adopted to comply with his demands, which the officers complained were overly restrictive and unworkable.  (A federal judge rejected their suit.)

Observers of Bobb in the 1990s and 2000s, when he was contracted to monitor the LA County Sheriff Department, had long suggested that his tactics were questionable.  (See the post here as well.)

None of this means that Mr. Matthew Barge, the PARC representative in Cleveland (and VP of PARC), is to be suspected of questionable tactics.  But we are justified in suspecting him and PARC of having the same agenda as Merrick Bobb – and the other connections with whom PARC and the Vera Institute are associated.

One of those, as you probably suspect, is George Soros.  The Vera Institute has been among the top 150 recipients of grants from the Open Society Institute.

The former director of the Vera Institute, Christopher Stone, joined the board of the Open Society Institute’s Justice Initiative in 2004, and became the director of the Open Society Institute itself in 2011.  So we’re not talking about incidental connections here.

(Not coincidentally, a Soros Justice Fellow – a woman granted a fellowship by the Institute Stone runs and the board he lately served on – was among those arrested in Arizona in March blocking the road at a Trump rally.  Soros is funding every aspect of the radical assault on peace and the rule of law in America.)

Another radical connection is Bernardine Dohrn, who was an advisor to the Vera Institute’s National Advisory Board on Adolescent Development, Safety and Justice from 1998 to 2003.

Another radical connection is one of the senior trustees of the Vera Institute: Debo Adegbile.  Alert readers will remember him as the politically extreme advocate for cop-murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal whom Obama nominated to be assistant U.S. Attorney General for civil rights.  Democrats joined Republicans in finding Adegbile too radical for the job.

Matthew Barge, the point man in Cleveland for PARC and the Vera Institute, is 33 and has been with PARC for about 10 years.  Before signing on with PARC, he did a stint with Factcheck.org in 2005.  He graduated from Georgetown University in 2004, and later got a law degree from NYU.

Notably, PARC was selected in 2015 as the contract monitor for Cleveland from a field of 23 applicants for the operation.  Cleveland officials may have been dubious about Barge’s level of experience.  But they could have no doubt that the folks at Justice liked PARC.  Clearly, the connection of the Obama Justice Department with PARC and the Vera Institute isn’t limited to its long-time dealings with Merrick Bobb.

Indeed, in February 2016, just a week after the weird DOJ episode with Cleveland’s special-event funding, the DOJ COPS office that supervises Cleveland’s consent decree issued a new three-part guide on “police engagement with diverse communities” – a guide series on which COPS partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice.

Cleveland prepares for its close-up. (Image: Screen grab of WKBN 27 video, YouTube)
Cleveland prepares for its close-up. (Image: Screen grab of WKBN 27 video, YouTube)

Cleveland at the vulnerability window

This is the background that needs to be considered when we get pieces of news like the report that the Cleveland police union is gravely worried about the city’s preparation for convention security, less than a month before the convention starts.

And when we see that the city unveiled a new General Police Order governing the use of force, “just a few short weeks from the RNC.”  The impetus for doing that was not from the police themselves, and in terms of sound management practices, would not normally have been ordered by city officials who had the best interests of Cleveland at heart.

And when we see that a delegation of Justice Department officials sent to Cleveland in late June to “help out” with convention security is from…the COPS office.  We might imagine that extra DOJ assistance would involve, oh, let’s say – just at random here – the FBI.  That’s who you’d send more of if security were your top concern.  Instead, DOJ sent more people to monitor and criticize police practices in Cleveland.

And when we see that the ACLU got a federal judge to scrap the security-zone plan for the convention, also just weeks before its start date on 18 July.

And when we see that the attack on police in Dallas seems to have served as a wake-up call for Cleveland, with a mere 10 days to go before the RNC starts.

It defies belief, that there has really been a unified, across-the-board sense of complacency in Cleveland about plans for the RNC, until suddenly the Dallas massacre woke everyone up.  Steve Loomis of the police union complained in June that Mayor Frank G. Jackson was being dismissive about police concerns.  Based on all the other factors in play, I’m betting Jackson’s not the only problem.

Other Justice Department connections

One of the flashing neon lights is the series of visits by race activists linked to Black Lives Matter with both Loretta Lynch and Barack Obama.

Howard Portnoy caught one of the activists, Johnetta Elzie, on Twitter after the Dallas attack hypothesizing that the massacre was basically a false flag operation staged by the FBI to make BLM look bad.

Elzie vaulted to national fame in the Ferguson protests, as did DeRay McKesson, who made headlines this weekend when he was arrested at the BLM protest in Baton Rouge.

McKesson and Elzie work together on an effort called Campaign Zero, and are joint founders of a group called This Is the Movement.  They are connected with BLM, but to call them “founders” or leaders of BLM is not really accurate.  (The founders were activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.  LU has previously covered their explicit threats to the GOP convention here, here, and here.)

McKesson and Elzie, as described at the NYT article above, have taken the more conventionally political route of working with politicians and government agencies.  And it’s they who sat down with activist colleagues Brittany Packnett and Samuel Sinyangwe in December 2015 to meet with Loretta Lynch.

DeRay McKesson wears his signature blue vest. See his Facebook notation for the other IDs. (Image: Facebook, DeRay McKesson)
DeRay McKesson wears his signature blue vest. See his Facebook notation for the other IDs. (Image: Facebook, DeRay McKesson)

Brittany Packnett, an activist who also made her name during the Ferguson protests, was appointed by Obama to the Task Force on 21st Century Policing which he established in December 2014.  Note that the chair of the task force is the head of DOJ’s COPS office, Ronald L. Davis.  Davis’s office is thus working with the far-left activists on a routine basis.

An example of DeRay McKesson’s engagement with government initiatives is his participation in an early conference of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing in January 2015.

And, of course, another example – much more widely reported – is his meeting with Obama in the White House in February 2016.  (See also here.)  McKesson and Packnett were among a handful of race activists who basically represented the BLM “movement” in that encounter.

Brittany Packnett seated next to Obama, DeRay McKesson in blue vest.  At the White House with Obama's senior staff in Feb 2016. (Image via wotchit video, YouTube)
Brittany Packnett seated next to Obama, DeRay McKesson in blue vest. At the White House with Obama’s senior staff in Feb 2016. (Image via wotchit video, YouTube)

The impression of institutional gravitas

This is where the genius of the Obama administration is to embed radicals in government activities that look conventional, to the ordinary citizen’s eye.  It’s one thing for BLM activists to holler and screech, interrupt politicians’ panels at conferences and protest in the streets.  People can see that coming, as radical activity.  But it’s another thing to hold solemn meetings and sit on government-sponsored panels, or get hired to monitor the police.  Those activities have an air of institutional conventionality to them, as if they must be good faith efforts.

If we listen closely to the police complaints in Cleveland, and look at which associates of the U.S. Justice Department are engaged there, I think we see a picture different from what our mental biases would imagine.  A COPS office being advised by Brittany Packnett and DeRay McKesson is not what people think of, when they hear that the Justice Department is stepping up its support to Cleveland for the GOP convention.  But that’s what they’re getting.  A federal monitor from PARC is unlikely to emphasize convention security over maximum latitude for street protesters – but how can the people see that in advance?

The appearance of conventionality keeps the people from seeing that there’s probably as much danger in Cleveland next week from enforced laxness and bias on the “law enforcement” side as there is from the organized protesters.

Consider one more data point, as we come to a close here.  If you think a federal agency won’t promote race-based protests, think again.  That’s exactly what another little-known office of the Justice Department did in Florida before the George Zimmerman trial in 2013.  The DOJ Community Relations Service deployed to central Florida and spent taxpayer money not only to facilitate a protest march (by a group called the Dream Defenders), but to pressure the local sheriff to strong-arm at least one business along the route of the march.  (I wrote about it here at the time, and recommend my post if you want the most accurate account of what the CRS is.  But be sure to visit the Conservative Treehouse link, which has the best videos of the activity on-scene.)

The Obama DOJ has a poor record in these matters, and we are fully justified in being concerned about what the COPS office is really in Cleveland for.  As my colleagues Howard Portnoy and Jerome Woehrle have detailed already, Obama himself, and a host of Democrats, have long shown a disposition to fan the flames of race divisions by making public comments that aren’t just irresponsible, but actively untruthful.  They merit no presumption of good intentions.

It needs only the point that George Soros is funding both sides of this pincer closing in on Cleveland.  Besides the influence of Soros-connected funding and people on the government-agency side, the influence of Soros money on the hooting-and-hollering BLM side is well documented.  See here and here as well; and see here for links among the very extended network of which BLM is a part – one that includes the aforementioned Dream Defenders in Florida, and others connected with the groups mentioned in this post.

We can hope everything will be fine in Cleveland next week.  But there are real reasons to worry that a whole lot of people involved are not on the side of law and order, as the average, responsible American citizen understands it.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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