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3 Of The Most Absurd Moments From Outside The 2016 RNC

By aaroncynic in News on Jul 22, 2016 5:04PM

A member of the Westerosi faith militant was on hand for Thursday of the Republican National Convention. Photo by Tyler LaRiviere/Chicagoist.
While law enforcement,media and city officials prepared for a large influx of activists, wingnuts and plenty of others for the coronation of the GOP’s presidential nominee Donald Trump Thursday in Cleveland, most of the protests were small and few arrests took place.

Still, the xenophobic carnival that’s been the Republican National Convention had no shortage of surreal and absurd moments, both inside and outside. From daily parades of street preachers to the ban of innocuous items in the security zone to speech plagiarism, a mountain of swag and fountains of racist rhetoric, a full and many times confusing circus came to Cleveland the week of the RNC.

Here are some of the most absurd moments we saw during the week:

High Energy Preaching

The gates to one entrance of the maze of lines, checkpoints and barricades one has to proceed through before entering the Quicken Loans Arena sits on 4th and Prospect, just at the mouth of media row. Outside of the designated “free speech zone” in the Public Square, this became the most popular area for all manner of individuals with agendas and issues to put in front of Republican delegates and cameras, particularly those with extreme religious views.

After spending the day with activists and others in Public Square and following the opening “dump Trump” march, I found myself mesmerized in the intersection, where two men on bullhorns were shouting—half to each other and half to passersby—about what the Bible really says.

The pair halfheartedly confronted each other with rhetoric for more than 30 minutes, with one calling homosexuality a “national security threat,” before being joined by a man who had trolled marchers earlier with a sign reading “socialism sucks.” Shortly after, the trio parted ways, yielding the intersection to another preacher who berated onlookers for their sins, including pornography, alcohol and smoking cigarettes.

As if the bizzaro world hateful version of Jesus who wishes everyone who isn’t a specific denomination of Christianity, straight, white, male, and refraining from masturbating didn’t have enough representation, a group with signs measuring several feet tall marched through.

And then, because the universe has a really great sense of humor, Don King wandered by.

The myth of piss

If the man handing the street preacher a flower looks familiar, it’s because he’s activist, actor, filmmaker and self-proclaimed time traveler Rod Webber, also known as “the flower man.” Webber has been in town all week for the RNC, handing out flowers to anyone who will take them as a message of peace. Both he and presidential candidate Vermin Supreme were on hand when Alex Jones thought it would be a good idea to attempt to provoke a riot by antagonizing demonstrators in Public Square, which led to hundreds of police putting the area on a near-lockdown.

The morning after the incident, the house Webber was staying at got a visit from law enforcement officials, who accosted the occupants for more than 20 minutes, accusing them of throwing bottles of urine at the police.

According to
, the FBI and local police went to the house to question the individuals because they were believed to be “causing issues” in the square, which included throwing urine at police. In the video, those being interrogated deny the accusations. Despite the fact that hundreds of journalists were in the square and none seemed to have published any photographic or video evidence, local media reported that members of the KKK, Westboro Baptist Church and Black Lives Matter activists were “said to be throwing urine at each other.” A spokesperson for the City of Cleveland however, told the Guardian no such event occurred.

Banned In Cleveland

Bottles of urine, a.k.a. containers filled with bodily fluids, were among the many items banned inside the “security zone.” Some of the more than 70 items prohibited from the heavily-policed security zone included things that made sense—though we’ve rarely ever seen such items at a protest and don’t know of many people who would bring them. While items like blasting caps, nun chucks, swords, axes and handles, explosives and other incendiary devices and other weapons including a type of battle glove called a cestus made sense, the sheer idea that protesters were planning on showing up with any of these helped to fuel the fear of an all out medieval battle at the gates.

Stranger though, were the more innocuous items banned in the area, which included tennis balls, tape, wire, cable or string more than six feet in length, canned goods, water guns, goggles and bike locks. Give that the bulk of law enforcement were carrying pepper spray (often unholstered) and tear gas was always at the ready, it’s understandable why goggles might be a good item to have on hand. Still, our photographer was stopped by police and had his confiscated.

Noticeably absent however from the list were guns. Ohio is an open-carry state, which made it perfectly legal for anyone to pack heat, making downtown Cleveland attractive to militia members looking to roam the streets and play soldier. Increasing numbers of mostly white men who supported Trump were spotted in Public Square each day, and on several occasions, groups showed up during rallies to “protect” the police.

The most twisted irony however, was this: while pellet, air-soft and other replica guns were banned, dozens of individual openly carried real weapons in a city where Tamir Rice, a 12 year old African-American child, was killed by police in seconds for having a toy air-soft pistol.