CLEVELAND (NewsNation Now) — Security preparations are underway in Cleveland ahead of the first presidential debate next Tuesday.
The debate will be held at the Samson Pavilion on the Health Education Campus at the Cleveland Clinic. Business owners near the clinic campus on Chester Ave. said they are on edge because of the threat of mass demonstrations, pointing to the protest in Downtown Cleveland in May that turned into a riot.
One of those business owners is Mohamed Sadek from Urban Kitchen and Deli.
“We’re afraid, we don’t know what’s going to happen, whenever something like this happens, you know there’s something that’s going to happen,” Sadek said.
Owners of some of the stores and restaurants near the site of the debate have been advised to close on Monday and Tuesday, and some of them have been urged to board up their storefronts.
“A lot of businesses in the area are closing but we have decided and elected to stay open, we were told we would have to be obviously responsible for any damages that happen or any boarding up that would happen,” he said.
The presidential debate is a national security event, very much like the Republican National Convention was in 2016, FBI special agent in charge of the Cleveland field office Eric Smith told NewsNation affiliate WJW-TV.
The security forces around the debate venue and the surrounding area of the city will be made up of personnel from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The overall plan and the personal safety and security of President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will be coordinated by the Secret Service.
“The good news is that we’ve got a very good muscle memory, particularly here in Cleveland because we had the RNC here and of course we had the 2016 championship parade,” Smith said.
The office of Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) confirmed that Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson requested the assistance of the National Guard, and the FBI calls that decision a “very smart and conscientious act.”
“Having the National Guard here as we all know, it’s better to you know have it and not need it, and need it and not have it,” Smith said.
Tune in to NewsNation on Wednesday at 8 p.m. (ET)/ 7 p.m. (CT) for full live coverage of the debate.