Anthony Body spent Monday at the Justice Center. It’s part of his job as a staffer at the Bail Project, to be there, helping defendants who can’t afford their bonds.
Afterwards, he chatted with Cleveland Municipal Judge Michelle Earley, who thanked him for his work.
But later that day, police stopped Body twice, eventually arresting him for violating Cleveland’s curfew order — even though he’s a Downtown resident who was heading back to work at the Justice Center.
“I’m a resident of Downtown Cleveland, and I work in Downtown Cleveland,” Body, a 33-year-old former member of the Community Police Commission, told ideastream by phone Wednesday. “I should be able to be given the benefit of the doubt.”
The first time police stopped Body, he was biking across the Detroit-Superior Bridge into Downtown after picking up food from a friend.
An officer called out to him, but he kept riding, saying that he lived Downtown, Body said. Several law enforcement officers then stopped him on the bridge, surrounding the area with their cars, according to a video of the encounter recorded by a coworker.
Body said he gave police his ID, which shows his Downtown address. Police kept him on the bridge as they ran his name.
“I went in my book bag to even show them that I just got some Chick-fil-A, this is the food I just got,” he said. “I work Downtown, I live Downtown.”
Officers issued Body a citation, according to a police report — even though Cleveland’s curfew order allows Downtown residents to leave the house for food.
“From what I’ve read and what I’ve received from [Mayor] Frank Jackson, the curfew ordinance he set in place was, if you live Downtown, you’re able to go get food,” Body said. “Because there’s nothing here open.”
Body went home to eat, he said. Later, he was riding his bike back to the Justice Center to post bail for clients, he said. Not far from his apartment building, officers waved him down again.
Body flashed a badge, said he was going to work and kept pedaling until officers stopped him at East 3rd Street and Superior Avenue, according to a police report. The badge was a consultant badge for the Justice Center, Body said, but police told him it wasn’t valid.
Officers checked his ID, learned he had received a citation earlier in the day and arrested him at 7:11 p.m. Monday, according to the police report.
“As I’m being arrested and so forth, you can see a white lady walking down the street walking the dog,” Body, who is black, told ideastream. “But she wasn’t bothered. Why should I have been bothered? Why was she given the benefit of the doubt when I wasn’t?”
Cleveland Municipal Court usually accepts bonds 24 hours a day, but has currently cut down to a window from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to a spokesman. Body said he wasn’t aware of that change, even as someone who posts bail for other people on a regular basis.
Police took him to jail, even though court authorities have been trying to minimize holding people as part of the effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Inside, Body saw a familiar face.
“One of the individuals that I was going to bail out was on the pod with me, and I joked and laughed with him, said, ‘Hey, I got arrested coming to post your bail, it’s your fault why I’m in here,’ and we got to laughing,” he said.
But Body isn’t laughing about the arrest. If police can treat him this way, he said, what about someone with less wherewithal and insider knowledge?
“What about the folks, that vulnerable population, who doesn’t have a voice?” Body said. “How are they treating them?”
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams said they said they weren’t aware of it when ideastream asked about Body’s arrest during a Tuesday interview.
“We don’t arrest people just because they’re in violation of the curfew, particularly if they’re Downtown residents,” Jackson said
Jackson said he’s seen police talking to residents about the curfew, and he and the chief have done so, too, without much trouble.
“As long as folks have proper ID, or something that validates they’re a resident of Downtown, they’re allowed in and out of Downtown like they normally would,” Williams said.
But Body did show officers his ID, and sent ideastream a photo of his driver’s license with a Downtown address. The police report lists Body’s address next to his name and date of birth.
Body spent the night in jail and was released on a no-cost personal bond Tuesday, according to the court docket. He’s gone back to work at the Justice Center since then, he said, but the fallout from the arrest isn’t over. He’s now fighting a first-degree misdemeanor charge for failure to comply, and he has lost a mode of transportation.
Officers confiscated Body’s bike and took it to the Fourth District headquarters, according to the police report. Body said he’s been calling the Fourth District to find out what happened the bike, which cost him $1,500.
Body told ideastream he hopes to pick it up Thursday.