CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said the city is preparing for possible civil unrest following the general election Tuesday, but added he has no “worrisome intelligence” of any threats of violence.
“I’m happy to report at the moment, knock on wood, that we’re not particularly worried about violence in Cincinnati at this time,” Cranley said. “If that changes, obviously we’ll be ready.”
Cincinnati police began preparing for election security nearly two months ago by monitoring social media and working with the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Hamilton County Board of Elections, Cranley said.
Cincinnati police have canceled discretionary vacation for officers, “to make sure we have the full manpower that we need over the next several weeks,” Cranley said.
Police are also transferring non-uniformed officers, who serve on task forces or in undercover roles, back into uniform for several weeks after the election to boost manpower, according to the mayor.
“So we can get them to those board of election locations, polling locations faster,” Cranley said.
The FBI is also preparing for possible unrest.
“All FBI field offices, including FBI Cincinnati, are standing up election command posts to coordinate with local and state partners, as well as with the FBI Headquarters National Election Command Post,” said Todd Lindgren, spokesperson for the FBI’s Cincinnati office. "This enables each FBI field office to streamline communication and response and ensure the safety and security of the elections and public."
One special agent and one intelligence analyst in each field office are working as election crimes coordinators, leading the office on assessing election crimes, investigating threats, and gathering intelligence, Lindgren said.
The Ohio National Guard is also on standby to respond to civil unrest if local police agencies need help.
“While we have open lines of communication with local and state partners to be able to respond at a moment’s notice should they need assistance, the Ohio National Guard does not have a request for elections support at this time,” said Ohio National Guard spokesperson Stephanie Beougher.
Molly Broscoe, a doctoral sociology student and researcher at the University of Cincinnati who specializes in white supremacist movements, is also monitoring social media.
“I think no matter what the election results are, unfortunately there is going to be at least some level of civil unrest after Tuesday,” Broscoe said. "There are questions on both sides of whether or not the election results are going to be legitimate.”
People may be unhappy with who wins the presidential election, the closeness of the vote or how absentee ballots are being counted, she said.
"There is the potential for slight civil unrest in Cincinnati,” Broscoe said, but noted other cities such as Columbus may be at greater risk of unrest because it houses the state capital.
In some parts of the country, civil unrest is already unfolding.
In October, the FBI charged six men with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and testified that the group had also talked about kidnapping Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam out of anger over pandemic shutdown orders.
The Ohio Capital Journal was the first to report in October that a Miami County resident reported to police that he was recruited to take part in a citizen’s arrest of Gov. Mike DeWine at his Cedarville home, but the plot never materialized.
“We’ve seen the beginnings of what we could call some election violence already,” Broscoe said.
Cranley has served Cincinnati for 20 years, first as a city councilman and now in his second term as mayor, but said he never had to plan with police for election security until this year.
“It’s an outlying year,” Cranley said.
For his part, Cranley said he will vote on Election Day as he normally does.
“I think people who go to vote should wear a mask,” Cranley said. “I believe it’s going to be a very safe experience.”