CLEVELAND — The tense political landscape and presence of open carry activists didn’t dampen a day of peaceful protest for demonstrators gathered outside the Quicken Loans Arena for the opening day of the 2016 Republican National Convention.
MintPress News was present outside the arena on Monday, where attendance by protesters seemed somewhat lower than anticipated. Even during an unpermitted march led by a musical “supergroup” featuring members of Public Enemy, Cypress Hill and Rage Against the Machine, no arrests were reported.
On Saturday, Cleveland police swore in hundreds of temporary officers recruited from forces around the country in anticipation of intense protest and potential unrest. Police and FBI agents were also reported to be visiting Cleveland activists at their homes in advance of the convention, apparently in an attempt to intimidate or discourage protests.
But during Monday’s protests, police remained largely non-threatening to activists. MintPress even witnessed a tense interaction between police and a loud protester with a bullhorn end in a group hug.
Late in the day, police briefly detained a pair of open carry activists because one of the activists’ rifles was partially concealed. They were released after they agreed to carry their weapons in accordance with open carry laws.
One of the open carry activists, who gave his name as Matt, said he’d come to the convention to “start a conversation,” and told MintPress that he was prepared to use the weapon in self-defense, if necessary.
“I don’t think anyone’s prepared to take a life, but if it is fight or flight, I’m prepared to fight,” Matt said.
The peaceful encounter between police and the open carry activists stands in contrast to the reaction of Stephen Loomis, president of Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, the city’s largest police union. In the wake of two mass shootings targeting police in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this month, Loomis told CNN on Sunday that he planned to ask Ohio Gov. John Kasich to temporarily ban open carry in the city, a request Kasich denied.
During the afternoon’s protests, MintPress also witnessed an unusually friendly encounter between a young man wearing a Donald Trump hat, a group of anti-Trump protesters, and a third passerby who joined their conversation. Afterward, Jake Levine, the Trump supporter, told us that he considered the respectful meeting an example of American democracy at work.
Watch “RNC 2016: Donald Trump Supporter Describes Encounter With Anti-Trump Protesters” from MintPress News:
Meanwhile, a group of activists dressed as clowns drew laughs from both Trump supporters and opponents.
Watch “RNC 2016: Clown Bloc Protesters Share Funny Words To Call Donald Trump” from MintPress News:
At 1 p.m. on Monday, the supergroup Prophets of Rage performed at End Poverty Now: March for Economic Justice, a rally held near the arena. The group features Chuck D and B-Real from the classic hip-hop groups Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, along with guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk from the heavy metal band Rage Against the Machine.
Last month, Morello told Rolling Stone: “Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are both constantly referred to in the media as raging against the machine. We’ve come back to remind everyone what raging against the machine really means.”
Watch “Tom Morello speaks at RNC protest rally” from cleveland.com:
Prophets of Rage closed the concert with a performance of Rage Against the Machine’s hit song, “Killing in the Name,” which Morello told the crowd had been used as torture at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and other black sites around the world.
“This is our revenge,” said Morello, who donned a “Make America Rage Again” hat for the show. “We’re now going to use this fucking song to torture those sons of bitches at the RNC with your help.”
Afterward, Prophets of Rage led a march on the Quicken Loans Arena, attended by about 200 people. In 2008, a protest sparked by a Rage Against the Machine concert near the site of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis led to over 100 arrests, but Monday’s march occurred without incident.
The band later gathered again at Public Square Park, a designated free speech zone about a half mile away from the convention site, for a second performance.
Prophets Of Rage vs RNC: Public Square Parkhttps://t.co/QzUoUpReM9
— Prophets of Rage (@prophetsofrage) July 18, 2016
Watch “Prophets Of Rage – Cleveland Rally – 7/18/16 – Full Show!” from Nick DominicOH: