Jo Freeman's Convention Diary: Cleveland Had More Police Than Protesters and Philly Was Cop-Lite
Downtown Cleveland was carved up into security zones with heavy 8 foot fences surrounding buildings and numerous streets blocked to traffic. There were relatively few cars or buses because many local employers told their staff to stay home. But it was still hard to get from point A to B because of the many blockades.
Philly was cop-lite. Only the members of the Pennsylvania State Police were added to the Philadelphia police. While their numbers waxed and waned, police presence in the street was no greater than in a normal protest. The only 8-foot fences were around the stadiums where the actual convention was held, and that was four miles from downtown. Locals told me that the inconvenience from the convention protests was trivial; it was much worse when the Pope was in town. Car traffic was normal.
If the planners had looked at history, they would have known that only in 2004 were there more protesters at the Republican Convention than that of the Democrats. Protesters are almost always from the left, who much prefer to complain about their kissing cousins than their actual opponents, regardless of which party is in power or what the issues are. More people will come from out-of-state to demonstrate at the Democratic Convention than at the Republican. The combination of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the GOP's choice of NYC for its quadrennial gathering is what made 2004 different.
In Cleveland organizing the marches rotated among the small left sectarian parties: Worker's World, Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Revolutionary Communist Party. I saw signs for several others, though they didn't look like they were organizing anything. None of these marches had permits, but the police acted as though they did, stopping traffic when necessary while making sure that marchers didn't get too close to the actual convention at the Quicken Loans Arena, known as the Q. Indeed, these were the friendliest police I have ever seen at a protest. They spoke with the various march leaders as though they were working for the tourist bureau.
Cleveland had more cops than protestors, which left them with little to do. Most of the time hundreds of cops stood around Cleveland’s Public Square keeping groups apart. They also guarded the small, lakefront municipal airport so no one could interfere with The Donald’s use of it for his private plane. It used some of its money to buy souvenir saddle pads for the police horses. Red with blue trim, they said "Mounted Police, RNC 2016 Cleveland."
Long ago the federal courts ruled that there had to be an official protest zone within sight and sound of the convention hall. In lawsuits before each convention the parties work out the time, place and manner details, or let the courts do it. Cleveland was a bit different in that the official protest zone was not within sight and sound of the Q. It was in the Public Square in downtown Cleveland, dominated by a gigantic Civil War monument.
It was a great place to protest, with plenty of space within view of people coming and going from the hotels. The biggest impediment was all those cops standing around looking for something to do. The biggest disruption came from four evangelical Christians carrying very large signs and a very loud bullhorn. Some of the lefty protesters got into a shouting match with them. They ignored the guys walking around with rifles slung over their shoulders to demonstrate their support for Ohio's open carry law.
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