Rumored arrival of out-of-town protestors close businesses, facilities in Wheeling

WHEELING, W.Va. — The downtown Wheeling area midday Tuesday was quieter than normal as some local businesses shut down and the City-County building closed.

Closures came in the rumored anticipation of a protest/assembly in downtown from violent out-of-town groups at noon. The protests did not occur. There have also been zero road closures or incidents as of Tuesday afternoon.

Wheeling Police Department sent out two tweets regarding the situation. The first at noon saying, “Public Safety personnel are actively monitoring the city to keep residents and visitors safe. At this time, there are no protests, road closures or issues.”

The next tweet came one hour later, “As of 1 p.m., Tuesday, WPD is still monitoring rumors of a protest/assembly. At this time, there is NO ordered lockdown of the city or businesses, NO road closures, and NO safety issues.”

Jason Cuomo, the Chief Judge for Ohio County 1st Judicial Circuit signed an emergency order on Tuesday morning closing Ohio County Magistrate Court for the day.

“An emergency event occurred in Ohio County due to public safety concerns with organized protests disrupting court business.

“This emergency event makes it unsafe for court personnel, attorneys, parties, and others, to be at or near the courthouse.”

Wheeling PD said it is monitoring the situation throughout Tuesday. The City-County Building has since reopened for early voting. Local businesses chose to close to protect employees if protestors arrived.

Citizens in the Wheeling area held a peaceful protest on the death of George Floyd and social injustice on Sunday evening in the streets of downtown. A second city demonstration was planned for noon on Tuesday but canceled due to the rumors of violent groups coming into town.

On Tuesday evening, the Wheeling Chief of Police Shawn Schwertfeger released a statement on the day’s events and protesting:

“In the last 24 hours, the Wheeling Police Department was made aware of an organized protest scheduled today, as well as social media rumors of outside agitators that would accompany this protest. We were and remain prepared.

The Wheeling Police Department supports peaceful and lawful protests on all matters. We always will do our best to assure any protest or assembly can occur unabated.

However, we will not tolerate outside agitation, nor will our community. I, along with the men and women of the Wheeling PD, stand in unity with our community and will work hard to ensure that does not change.

I was very happy with the overall peaceful event held Sunday, the behavior of the participants, and WPD’s response.

Although today’s rumors appear to be unfounded, I am proud of the community’s choice  to not engage, given the potential arrival of outside agitators.

I would like to thank our law enforcement/public safety partners and the community for their ongoing assistance today and always.”

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