Protesters expected to rock against Trump in Cleveland
Cleveland — The Rock and Roll Capital of the World is expected to be rocking Monday morning as protesters descend on Ohio’s third largest city to make a boisterous stand against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
The demonstrations by groups such as Black Lives Matter and the New Black Panther Party are expected to coincide with the start of the four-day Republican National Convention, which has attracted an estimated 50,000 Republicans and members of the media. The Oath Keepers, an anti-government group known to march in protests armed with semi-automatic rifles, also is expected to have a presence in Cleveland.
Ohio’s police agencies have been on edge since the killing 11 days ago of five Dallas police officers that followed the fatal police shootings of two unarmed black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.
Sunday’s killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, only heightened tensions. Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, went on CNN and Fox News Sunday afternoon after the Baton Rouge killings and called on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to temporarily ban people from open-carrying loaded guns in downtown Cleveland.
“We are going to be looking very, very hard at anyone who has an open carry,” Loomis said on CNN. “An AR-15, a shotgun, multiple handguns. It’s irresponsible of those folks — especially right now — to be coming downtown with open carry ARs or anything else.”
Kasich’s office said the governor couldn’t legally bar people from lawfully carrying rifles or handguns in public.
Jeff Larson, CEO of the Republican National Convention, downplayed concerns about protesters marching outside of the security perimeter with rifles strapped to their backs.
“I feel good about the security and what we’ve done and what we’ve planned and I think it’s going to be fine,” Larson said Sunday.
Traversing downtown became a challenge over the weekend. Barricades staffed by Ohio National Guard members blocked or restricted traffic on streets surrounding police headquarters and the Cleveland Convention Center, where many of the 15,000 credentialed media in town will work.
At Quicken Loans Arena — home of billionaire Dan Gilbert’s Cavaliers championship basketball team — a concrete perimeter has been created under the control of the U.S. Secret Service. Delegates are only permitted to carry small purses or clear plastic bags into the convention venue beyond a heavily guarded perimeter.
Cleveland's mayor and police chief have repeatedly said the city is prepared for all kinds of situations after unexpected shootings and attacks in the United States and abroad.
Law enforcement agencies from around the country are aiding Cleveland, including 150 troopers from the Michigan State Police who were dispatched Saturday to help with crowd control and security near Quicken Loans Arena. The GOP’s national convention begins at 1 p.m. Monday.
Inspector Jim Shaw of the Michigan State Police said troopers recognize citizens’ rights to assemble and hold peaceful protests and “train for events like this.”
The Michigan State Police are providing the 150 troopers and support personnel — including 14 troopers on motorcycle — through an interstate emergency assistance agreement. Ohio agencies will reimbursement the Michigan State Police for the cost, Shaw said.
Michigan sent troopers to other states for natural disasters, but have never provided support for crowd control, Shaw said.
Gov. Rick Snyder visited with the troopers Saturday afternoon, calling them “brave men and women” who use caution “when responding to scary and uncertain situations.”
“Now they will demonstrate this with the eyes of the nation upon them,” Snyder wrote in a Facebook post. “Certainly the families and friends of each of these troopers are anxious to see them go, and I ask that you join me in praying for their safe return.”
Cleveland and Ohio law enforcement officials are expecting protesters and Trump supporters to pour into the city from across the country.
Tom Moran, a retired postal carrier from Fenton, said he secured a city permit for four people to protest with a homemade banner in Cleveland’s Perk Plaza. He will be joined by Bruce Fealk of Rochester Hills, who will serve as a Bernie Sanders delegate at the Democratic National Convention the following week.
Moran has constructed a 7-foot wide banner that will be held up by three-quarter-inch PVC pipe, as permitted by the city of Cleveland.
“You’ve gotta check the fine print,” Moran said of the protesting rules. “If it was any other person besides Donald Trump, I wouldn’t be going to the Republican National Convention to protest. I’m not going to get into trouble, but to remind people what his character is like. If he ran as a Democrat, I’d vote for the Republican.”
Detroit News Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting and the Associated Press contributed.