There I was, standing in the street, watching lots of armed people in uniforms patrol the area while high fences cut off access from other areas of the city. “Boy,” I thought, “I’d better watch my step.”
Where was I? Some Middle Eastern country? Mexico? Istanbul?
Nope, I was in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention.
I spent a day in Cleveland last week snooping around at the convention. It was an almost surreal experience.
People who found out we were going to the convention kept asking things like, “Aren’t you worried? Be careful. Watch out for protesters.”
Well, I have to tell you, there hardly were any protesters there. We saw a guy dressed like a Mexican and a woman dressed like a judge with signs about immigration and the Supreme Court. Then we saw a group of about 25 people carrying multi-purpose protest signs — things like “America Never Was Great” and something along the lines of destroying the system. This is handy because they will be able to use the same signs over again in Philadelphia this week when the Democrats meet.
I heard later these people got into a little skirmish, although I have to say they looked like they would have trouble winning a skirmish with a group of motivated Girl Scouts. Nothing came of it, probably because they were far outnumbered by police who themselves were far outnumbered by media people. Not a whole lot of room to maneuver there.
Still, they were angry people and angry people can create incidents. And there are a lot of angry people around these days. Lots of people are angry at the Trump people. The Trump people themselves seem to be an angry lot. The few protesters who were there were angry at just about everything and almost everyone there was angry at Hillary. I just wish people would calm down a little bit.
Security was so tight in Cleveland you couldn’t get close to anything important. If you tried to walk into a hotel where delegates were staying, you stood a good chance of being immediately thrown out. There were miles of temporary fences put up to block off convention sites. At one point, we were in our car on Euclid Avenue when a bicycle cop, fully loaded with helmet and vest and other impressive looking equipment, rode by. Then another one followed him. And another one. It turned out to be an entire army of bicycle cops, maybe 75 of them, moving in a pack.
We talked to one Republican National Committee employee who told us this was his fourth convention and he’d never seen security even close to the way it was being handled in Cleveland.
Like the protesters who never materialized, people from Cleveland pretty much decided to skip the whole thing. I heard later that downtown businesses had expected a big surge in business, but ended up having worse weeks than they normally do. The natives stayed away and the delegates were too busy getting through all the checkpoints and cheering for Trump to spend much money. It wasn’t a boost to the economy at all, unless you happened to be in the fencing or security business.
The afternoon we were there, a couple of blocks of Euclid Avenue were filled with people. We turned and drove up a parallel street and it looked like a ghost town. There were little pockets where things were crowded and big pockets that were practically deserted.
I guess times have changed and things just aren’t what they used to be. I don’t blame anyone for the security paranoia, it’s just the way things have to be these days. I’m sure the people of Cleveland are breathing a big sigh of relief that Trump and his pals got out of town without anything of any significance happening. I’m sure they’re happy to pass it all along to Philadelphia, where we’ll have to go through it all again this week.
In fact, I’m not sure why they even hold conventions these days, other than to give celebrities and politicians chances to give long speeches and remind us how out of touch they are. Even in this regard, this convention was a bit of a disappointment, because most of the celebrities and lots of the politicians decided to stay away.
I guess it says something when the convention to choose a presidential candidate is only the second biggest thing that has happened in town this year. After all, Donald Trump might have been nominated for president, but there’s still only one King in Cleveland.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]