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Gun Owners, Polar Bears And Preachers Descend On Cleveland For RNC

By aaroncynic in News on Jul 18, 2016 8:50PM

A pedestrian with a rifle, a man who loves capitalism, and an activist in a polar bear suit are just some of the people you'll meet on the streets of Cleveland as the 2016 Republican National Convention kicks off.

Protesters, supporters and people with plenty of different and diverse agendas gathered on the streets of Cleveland Monday as morning broke on the first day of the RNC. Small groups of demonstrators dotted in and out of Public Square, which sits about half a mile of the Quicken Loans Arena, where for the next four days the GOP will convene and ultimately, crown Donald Trump their nominee for president.

The polarizing effect of Trump, whose campaign is mostly built of a never-ending stream of racist, bigoted, sexist and generally inflammatory remarks, could be seen everywhere on the streets of Cleveland, as groups supporting and detracting him began to assemble in various locations.

“Donald Trump’s poisonous rhetoric and proposals are a human rights catastrophe for immigrants,”said Brad Sigal of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, who organized about 50 people from the state to protest Trump at the RNC. “You’ve heard him say he’s going to build a wall. This is insanity. The U.S. Mexico border is already one of the most militarized borders on the planet. Thousands of people die already trying to cross that border, fleeing war, violence and extreme poverty imposed by U.S. free trade policies, corrupt militaries and dictatorships.”

Police presence was heavy, with officers from multiple states on nearly every block of the city. Despite this and the recent horrific shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that didn’t stop some from openly carrying weapons on the street. One pedestrian, Jesse Gonzalez of Lakewood, Ohio, strapped a rifle to his back, “because I can,” he said.

“That’s the long and short of it,” said Gonzalez. “I heard the black panthers are gonna be here and carrying guns. I think [carrying a gun is] an important right we abandoned socially. Specifically firearms ownership for expediency. Guns are bad is the new normal.”

Gonzalez said he supported Trump for his economic and immigration policies. “Having things like tariffs again would have no other outcome than rejuvenating a great deal of economies throughout the country,” he said.

As a Muslim woman who traveled from Buffalo, New York spoke in the Square, a small group of militant right-wing men gathered at the edge of the street behind the square with large signs bearing Islamaphobic, anti-gay and anti-choice slogans. After being confronted by several people of color, the argument turned to abortion, with one of them repeatedly saying “close your legs, whores” to several people of color.

Others roaming the streets near the convention had a more moderate tone, instead focusing on their particular issues, rather than whether or not they support the immigrant-bashing Trump.

Holding a large cross on his shoulder that read “vote for Jesus,” Garry Mathis said he was just “trying to make a statement.” Mathis, who traveled to Cleveland from Anchorage, Alaska, said that while he couldn’t figure out if Hillary or Trump was better, he hoped others in his position would consider Jesus. “I want to tell people...BOOM...Jesus loves them and vote for him if you can’t figure out who to vote for.”

Earlier in the morning, an already very overheated person in a polar bear costume bearing a sign that read “what will you do to save me” said he was bring a message of “positive change.” “Bears can’t vote, so they’re dependent on the whole human species to help out,” he said.

While the mood everywhere was tense, the early morning speeches in the square and afternoon demonstrations in the street were mostly peaceful. Hundreds marched through the streets near the Quicken Loans Arena chanting “dump Trump now” and “Donald Trump go away, racist sexist anti-gay.” A few counter demonstrators positioned themselves at various corners as the march passed by, but we observed no major incidents, outside of one arrest.

One scuffle occurred later when police shoved several members of the media with their bikes.