Nationwide violence sparks concern for RNC security


Protesters walk through a crowd of Trump supporters chanting anti-Trump remarks in Vienna, Ohio, on Monday, March 14, 2016.

Adam Cook

Pushed ahead by a raucous primary, the Republican National Convention is set to arrive in Cleveland next week amid a background of violence.

Last week, a stream of harrowing scenes from across the country stirred security concerns.

In Louisiana on Monday, cellphone footage documented the fatal point-blank police shooting of a black man while being pinned to the ground.  

Two days later in Minnesota, the immediate aftermath of a second fatal police shooting of a black man during a traffic stop was broadcast live through a social media feed.

The next night, the country reeled from news reports of five police officers gunned down in Dallas at an event protesting police shootings of black men.

Friday, the day following the deadly events in Dallas, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams announced that the city would be making changes to its security plan for the RNC, where Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is expected to formally accept the GOP’s nomination.

“There is definitely a potential for violence anywhere that Donald Trump is present,” said Jeff Mixon, president of Black Lives Matter in Cuyahoga County. “He is an advocate for violence and hatred. It should be obvious by now, however, that—even after the tragedy that occurred in Dallas—Black Lives Matter will not stop protesting until America’s so-called justice system begins to hold racist, homicidal police officers accountable.”

Numerous other groups for and against Trump are preparing to make their voices heard in rallies and marches during the four-day event that city officials expect to draw 50,000 people to downtown Cleveland.

During the week of the RNC, the city plans to confine protesters to the official designated parade route.

Groups will be required to have permits to march the 1.7-mile parade route that starts on the western end of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge and heads toward Ontario Street before veering away from Quicken Loans Arena (the site of the RNC) to end at the intersection of Orange Avenue to East 9th Street.

A coalition group headed by Organize Ohio expects 5,000 people to participate in the “End Poverty Now!” March for Economic Justice.

“Our march route is different than the other protests’ route,” said Veronica Cole, spokesperson for Organize Ohio. “Separating us from the potential agitator groups that oppose our march will mitigate opportunities for clashes.”

The “End Poverty Now! March” for Economic Justice is expected to be the largest group gathering to demonstrate.

However, liberal and progressive groups will bump elbows with other groups representing wide-ranging and conflicting viewpoints.

Permits have been issued for anti-Trump and pro-Trump conservative groups.

“The Coalition to Stop Trump” and other organizations are seeking to deny Trump the nomination, despite the candidate having won the backing of a majority of delegates during the primaries.

The anti-Trump movement is seeking convention rule changes in the hope of dislodging some of Trump’s pledged delegates so that the candidate can no longer claim a majority of delegates and the de facto Republican nomination.

“Bikers for Trump,” a group that has been characterized as the unsanctioned security force at Trump rallies in the past, promises to have a presence outside the arena.

Cleveland officials insist that the city is ready, and that being ready “includes more emergency medical inside and outside of the arena, porta-potties, vendor zones and all the advanced planning involved in the event,” said Dan Williams, media director for the City of Cleveland.

Last month, record crowds packed the streets of downtown Cleveland for the Cavs NBA champion parade. That gathering was, however, one of unity, unmarred by the racial, political and cultural tensions reminiscent of the primary.

“(An estimated) 1.3 million is a lot of people, and given the potential for something to happen, it was a tremendous event,” Williams said.

The city’s confidence in ensuring a safe event, however, is evident.

“Cleveland had been able to protest the death of Tamir Rice without violence, and we were able to celebrate a NBA championship without violence,” Cole said.