Inside downtown Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, Republicans from all over the country are engaged in a four-day circle jerk of American exceptionalism, and a bunch of the mainstream media is in there to film it. But we're not. We're outside, with the real people, sweating alongside protesters and merch hawkers and cops. Jesus Christ, so many fucking cops. And so much sweat.
In less than 48 hours on the ground in Ohio, we've gotten sunburns, dehydration, and a lifetime's worth of sexist drivel in the form of anti–Hillary Clinton buttons, T-shirts, and interviews with Trump supporters who think she's a "lyin' bitch." We've also met Latina college students and Mexican American families who traveled from other states to protest Trump, and we've hung out with anti-Trump Iraq War veterans who are here to help with de-escalation and peacekeeping. The mood so far has been peaceful outside the arena, crazy inside the arena (where Melania Trump has been plagiarizing Michelle Obama while #NeverTrump-ers have been making their last stands). And it's only day one!
While there's been a whole lot of talk about 1968-redux and the possibility of race riots following the violence in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the tame protests winding through the streets of downtown Cleveland stuck to their preplanned routes.
I spent the first part of Monday hanging out with a group of Iraq War veterans who came to Cleveland to provide peacekeeping for the protests (and to protest Donald Trump's hateful rhetoric against Muslims and Latinos). They were doing de-escalation training in case things get hairy with Trump's motorcycle gang fan club, Bikers for Trump. Later, at an afternoon antipoverty march, the vets rolled out a sign that read "We Stand with Our Muslim Sisters and Brothers."
"I came here with friends from all over the country to protest Donald Trump's hate speech," Maggie Martin, codirector of Iraq Veterans Against the War, said. "We really want to counter what he's saying about Muslims. We've served with Muslims. We were with Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan and here at home. And we want to say the hate speech has got to stop. These are our brothers and sisters." (SB)
On a huge photo on the side of an RV in downtown Cleveland, some sort of metal tool pinches the neck of a bloody fetus. Big letters shout "Choice Is Abortion." A roving band of street preachers nearby condemns LGBTQ people and yells through a bullhorn, "Porn freaks go to hell, right there with Hitler!" The night before, a few blocks away, a man held a sign that said "TRUMP VS TRAMP." Another sold buttons reading "KFC Hillary Special: 2 Fat Thighs, 2 Small Breasts... Left Wing" and "Life's a bitch. Don't vote for one."
So, yeah. In left-leaning Seattle, it's easy to forget about this particular brand of in-your-face anti-sex, anti-woman sentiment. But here in Cleveland, it's alive and well, a fully unmasked version of the Republican Party letting its freak flag fly—with hints of the sexist anti-Clinton campaign to come. Inside the convention hall, the party adopted its most conservative platform ever: opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgender bathroom access, and calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. According to the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, it's "the most pro-life platform ever."
The party's nominee, Donald Trump, has only recently decided he's anti-choice. But that, like other truths, doesn't matter much to conservatives here as long as Clinton—or any woman, it seems—is never in charge. (HG)
Around 7 p.m., Heidi and I sat on a bench in downtown Cleveland, staring at our phones in search of food. "You two texting each other?" a state trooper asked, smirking, as he walked by.
Cleveland has called in support not just from its own state troopers, but from Michigan state troopers, the California State Highway Patrol, the Pittsburgh Police Department, and law enforcement agencies in Virginia, Florida, and New Jersey as well. During a Monday antipoverty march, the number of body-armored bike cops flanking the permitted parade route appeared to rival the number of actual protesters. We can only imagine the type of dick-swinging turf wars going on behind the scenes, but we haven't yet seen police being particularly aggressive with protesters or anyone else. At one point in the day, Mother Jones reporter James West even found Ohio cops posing with protesters holding Black Lives Matter signs outside the GOP convention. More of that, please!
That said, downtown Cleveland is a mess of tall barricades that look like protester bear traps. Last month, the ACLU sued the city on behalf of Trump supporters, Trump protesters, and a homeless advocacy group, arguing that the city's restrictions around the event zone were overly strict. In addition to banning tennis balls and an ancient Greek boxing glove called a cestus, the city has also said that people within the 1.7-square-mile event zone may not carry rope, tape, bike locks, tents, sleeping bags, big backpacks, or canned goods. Luckily, in a deal reached with the ACLU, the city agreed not to apply these restrictions to Cleveland's homeless population, many of whom rely on items like tents and canned goods to survive. (SB)Get more RNC coverage—live from Cleveland—here.