Awards & Events

Sights and Sounds Outside the RNC in Cleveland

CLEVELAND – A four-dimensional signpost designated the cross streets as the center of this city’s Gateway District. “WE the people welcome you to Cleveland,” proclaimed the poster atop one side, signed by Mayor Frank P. Jackson. Below, on another side, read a darker proclamation, this one unsigned: “Hillary’s America. Planned parenthood or planned prisonhood. Democrats will eliminate the black community, the secret history of the Democratic Party.”

Recording video tracks in front of the signpost, oblivious to the ironic juxtaposition of the posters, stood a news crew from Polish Public Television.

“I guess it’s going to be a completely different convention than any other in history because of what’s going on here in the United States, police brutality and the revenge actions like yesterday in Baton Rouge,” observed Zuzanna Falzmann, chief U.S. correspondent for PTV. It’s horrible and you can see it on the streets. I spoke with protesters yesterday and they kept telling me this is something they cannot stand, and people will take the action, which means it will be really nasty in Cleveland,” she predicted.

So far, it isn’t.

On Monday afternoon, protesters peacefully gathered and marched downtown, diverted by police from the sealed off security perimeter around Quicken Loans Arena. Meanwhile, Trump supporters gathered in the Flats area, showing their support for the GOP’s presumptive nominee, and Bikers for Trump stood ready, they said, to come to the aid of police.

At Willard Park near Lake Erie, public art was on display. Beneath a tent almost toppled by gusts of wind, Andrew Purchin, a self-described artist and “psychotherapist” from California, urged passersby to “paint and draw on what will become “a 144-foot linen scroll entitled “The Curious End to the War Against Ourselves.”

As Purchin explained, “Making art can calm us down.”

Watching a woman add her strokes to one of the linen segments, Spencer Snygg told why he’s spending the week in Cleveland spreading the word about his website, VoteWise.net.

“VoteWise.net allows us to take people with different views and show them how they aren’t that far apart,” Snygg said.

Four blocks away, a contingent from Nuns on the Bus had a similar mission. “We’re driving around the country, holding our own caucuses and workshops,” said Sr. Mary Ellen Lacey.

The nuns, an affiliate of the National Catholic Justice Lobby, are here this week to survey people about their hopes and fears. Next week in Philadelphia, site of the Democratic National Convention, they’ll ask people the same questions.

“ We suspect we’re going to find that everyone has the same worries and hopes for their future, but we just have a real different way of getting there,” Lacey observed. “So let’s start a conversation about what we hope to get done and we’ll figure out the rest if we can just agree on the goal.”

Among those completing the nuns’ survey was Rico Caegy, a lifelong Cleveland resident who is deaf and frequently comes to Youngstown to teach sign language, he said. He expressed concern about police brutality and disdain for Trump, particularly “when he makes fun of the disabled. “

Surveying the scene along the sidewalks, walking from the DoubleTree by Hilton on Lakeside Avenue, where the Ohio delegation is housed, to near the Quicken Loans Arena, it was obvious that security is tight but not oppressive. Most striking were the groups of police officers from out of state, walking in teams of four along the sidewalks. Among the many men in blue were state police from Wisconsin, Delaware and Michigan, and officers from Austin, Texas. Private security guards, in uniforms and plain clothes, stood outside many of the office buildings, and Secret Service agents were posted at street corners.

Traffic did not appear to be more congested than on a typical business day, although many streets were closed or reduced to one lane both ways.

“Smile and ride free,” beckoned an RTA trolley. A truck with a billboard advertised Kelley Blue Book: “ Make driving great again!” And a popular T-shirt mimicked Hillary Clinton’s campaign: “Hillary for Prison in 2016.”

“I’m a citizen, a registered Republican and I’m curious to see what’s going to happen,” said Jim Sullivan, a retired business consultant in Chicago and “invited guest” to the convention.

“I’m worried about the way this country is headed at this particular moment. …This is a great city to be in but all this hype that’s going on – I’m just hoping that the convention comes off without a hitch.”

At 4 p.m. on Day One, so far, so good.

So far.

Pictured: Long line for security check-in outside Quicken Loans Arena.

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Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.