Urban Search and Rescue team prepares for protester tactics that could block traffic

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jul 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-14 18:52:47-04

Members of an elite firefighter team are training to break apart protesters who might plan on chaining themselves together and blocking traffic during the RNC.  

The Cleveland region’s Urban Search and Rescue team is made up of about 100 firefighters from suburban departments, 80 of which received special training for the GOP convention. 

The counties represented include Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain. 

While protesters are allowed to demonstrate peacefully during the RNC, Cleveland police have stated that tactics that block traffic or create safety concerns will be broken up. 

Members of the USAR team told that PVC pipes, concrete and steel pipes have become common tools for protesters to lock themselves together and block traffic flows. 

“They’re there to do their thing, we’re here to do ours and we don’t wish any harm on them,” explained the USAR team captain, who asked not to be named for safety reasons. Some rescue teams have been threatened by groups in the past who are unhappy about them breaking apart protests. 

Cleveland staged its own cut team training in May but suburban stations were not involved.

The USAR captain said they’re training separately to cover incidents in the suburbs — where hundreds of delegates will be housed. 

“We could see protests pop up at a moment's notice and then cause havoc for some of the communities that maybe don’t have the resources that city of Cleveland does,” he said.  

The team was able to assemble a range of devices that have been previously used at protest events around the country. 

Lakewood Fire Chief Scott Gilman, who hosted the training, said the team is constantly updating their tactics to keep up with the latest devices. 

“We’ve just changed our training and adapted,” Chief Gilman said. “When I started 34 years ago, I never envisioned that I’d see things like this today, it’s become a reality of society.” 

Demonstrators must be given a verbal order to disperse before the cut teams can start pulling them apart. 

The USAR team will focus on the suburbs but will be available to aid Cleveland Police downtown should the need arise.