CLEVELAND – Nearly everywhere you look in downtown Cleveland during the Republican National Convention, there are cops – tall cops, short cops, fat cops, buff cops, young cops and old cops.
There are beat cops, cops on horses, cops in riot gear, cops in neon vests directing traffic and bicycle cops with body cams atop their helmets. There are cops from Illinois and Michigan and California and Austin, Texas, and Louisville, Ky. There are cops from Georgia and Florida and Wisconsin and Delaware and even Maine. In fact, the city asked every state to provide additional law enforcement, and it seems like nearly every state did.
There are noticeably very, very few female or black cops, and most of the black cops are from Cleveland.
Still, the massive law enforcement presence seems to have paid off. There have been some hectic protests, including a flag-burning protest Wednesday that led to 17 arrests and resulted in charges of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.
There have been some tense moments, like the standoff that police broke up between immigration activists and Trump supporters Tuesday on Euclid Avenue, Cleveland’s equivalent of a Main Street, right at rush hour. And the guys openly carrying assault weapons Monday had many people, especially police, anxious.
Most of the numerous protests that have taken place in downtown Cleveland have been relatively peaceful. The city has not needed the nearly 1,000 jail cells it made available, nor the 20-hour open court it set up to handle offenders.
Make no mistake, though, the protesters are here.
Hanif Phelps, 31, is originally from Cleveland and stood on a downtown corner with a white foam board that read, “ALL LIVES MATTER*” and listed groups like Muslims, “Black folks,” and LGBTQ+ people underneath.
“There is a little bit of divisiveness, and I’m trying to remove that and let people know that there is a movement out there that has some validity,” Phelps said. “But we have to make sure that all the lives matter when we say it. We can’t say ‘All Lives Matter’ and exclude any one of those demographics.”
Phelps said the Black Lives Matter movement is not inherently separatist. He said slogans that include “lives matter” refer to a section of a group of people.
“When we say, ‘cop lives matter,’ we mean good cops,” he said. “When we say, ‘Black lives matter’ we mean the people who aren’t in gangs shooting other black people. You cannot hold law-abiding citizens accountable for criminals.”
Nearly 100 protesters created a “Wall off Trump” Wednesday morning, in response to Trump’s promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out.
Various groups from across the country formed a “wall” of cloth sheets painted like bricks that stretched down a block of Prospect Avenue, the closest public access street north of the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention is being held.
They chanted and sang “Wall off Trump” and “The walls that they build will tear us apart! They’ll never be as strong as the walls of our heart!”
One of the “wall” protesters was Daryl McElven, who came to the RNC from Vermont. He is with It Takes Roots to Change the System, part of a “people’s caravan” traveling to the RNC and next week’s Democratic National Convention.
“We want to bring people together,” McElven said. “We want to show them what a wall looks like, how inconvenient it is and how ridiculous it is.
He said he was pleased that the protest brought out such a diverse group of supporters.
“We love people of all colors and races here,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Angela Hall, 32, from Cleveland, was part of the protest. She said she worries that her elderly father would be sent back to Puerto Rico.
“We’re out here saying that we’re not taking it anymore,” she said. “You’re no
t going to send immigrants, or anybody for that nature, back over a wall. You’re not putting our African Americans back on boats. You’re not sending our Jews back to Israel or wherever you think they come from. We’re just not taking it anymore.”
Breeanna Usher, 24, is from Los Angeles, but is in Cleveland for now doing her graduate social work at Case Western University. She was with the Hispanic organization Mi Gente.
“We’re basically just out here to have a symbolic wall to wall out the racism and hate and ignorance Trump has been spewing since he started the candidacy,” Usher said. “This is to educate people and really to get other people engaged.”