CLEVELAND – Cleveland breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday night as the Republican National Convention closed without major incident.
The lead-up to the convention had media outlets and Cleveland police planning for the worst, expecting large turnouts at violent protests against presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Rather, small confrontations or tense moments were exacerbated by the sheer number of media and held together by the heavy police presence.
Thursday afternoon saw a small march through downtown Cleveland by the Industrial Workers of the World, led by Pat Mahoney, 25, of Cleveland, Ohio.
Mahoney said the march wasn’t planned but became of product of the police separating them and Trump-supporters.
“We wanted to soapbox and talk; we got a little bit of that and then we were kinda forced into a march,” said Mahoney.
“Most of the pressure on us to be moving was coming from the media in our way,” said Matt Meister, 41, who was also part of the march, which was followed by a large amount of police.
“It became really, really difficult because as the media crowded us, the police saw a crowd and then they divided us,” said Meister.
Cleveland police embraced the use of uniformed “soft cops” as the most visible presence downtown, hiding the militarized and heavily armed riot police who have become familiar sights at protests across the United States.
Police Chief Calvin Williams was a regular presence downtown, arriving to personally direct officers and address protesters.
Part of the peace could be accredited to the reported canvassing by law enforcement agencies of expected protesters in the weeks leading up to the Republican National Convention, and the strict conditions that were in force for parades.
A “Stand Together Against Trump” march on Thursday saw protesters gather in the 90-degree heat (32 Celsius) in the suburbs west of downtown.
They marched the designated parade route, crossing the Hope Memorial Bridge with little chance of being spotted by the public attending the convention.
The heat didn’t deter Stephanie Logan, 40, a Cleveland local who now lives interstate, from marching.
“I must commend the police; they have practiced self-control and in simmering things that could’ve gotten out of control,” Logan said.
Closer to the convention center, a police officer was playing ping-pong with a civilian. and Zac Alberty, 18, was holding a sign reading, “Make memes great again.”
“I’m trying to spread some love to my favorite city in the world — I was born and raised here,” Alberty said.
Alberty said he had been tense earlier in the week after an altercation with another protester but was calmer by Thursday afternoon.
“Everything seems safe for the most part today, you kinda gotta just take it hour by hour.”
The night ended with a bizarre moment when police seized a pinata of a pig from a protester, who then pursued the officer, asking for it to be returned.
All in all, the ultimate drama was inside the convention as Trump accepted the nomination and Cleveland witnessed fireworks by the Cuyahoga River.
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