CLEVELAND — Protesters opposing likely Republican nominee Donald Trump couldn’t get close to the Quicken Loans Arena on Monday, but they still caught the attention of delegates in the streets of Cleveland.
Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe was spotted walking through a square near the convention center as protesters were milling about following a march through downtown. The protest included an array of immigrant, labor, student and Black Lives Matter groups.
“I respect the right of groups like MoveOn.org and Black Lives Matter to be here,” Ratcliffe said. “But I think they’re frankly helping the Republican cause by being here, because it really underscores the unrest that we have in this country right now after almost eight years of this administration — and a candidate on the Democratic side who’s promising more of the same.”
That’s not how the protesters saw it.
They marched through downtown chanting against Trump, holding signs that read, “DUMP TRUMP,” and “End Islamophobia and Racism!”
“We think it’s important [to march] so Trump and the Republican delegates know there’s a lot of people who are strongly opposed t0 their attacks on Muslims, their attacks on immigrants, their attacks that are racist,” said Tom Burke of the Coalition to Stop Trump. “And we want the people of the country to see that we’re out here taking a strong stand against that.”
Burke was at the front of the march with a handful of other organizers who would run ahead to figure out what direction to go. Several streets around the convention sites were closed.
The marchers could not get very close to the arena, where the main convention events are taking place. Ratcliffe said the tight security made it hard for protesters to confront attendees.
“You feel very secure when you’re in the convention center,” Ratcliffe said.
Police on bikes escorted the protesters as they made their way around the city. Law enforcement officers from Wisconsin to California also were on hand.
Amnesty International observers also followed along with the march to monitor the law enforcement response. This is the first time the group has sent observers to the presidential conventions.
Protesters ended up at a square across the street from the convention center, where the media is stationed. They faced off with a small group of white men who were wearing hats that read, “Fear God.”
One of the men was wearing a shirt that said “Muhammad is in hell,” referring to the most important prophet in Islam. Protesters faced the group and chanted, “Black lives matter!”
Police arrived at the square and created a barrier between the two groups. The standoff ended peacefully, as police cleared a path for the small group of men to exit the square.
Burke said the march was the coalition’s main event of the week, though he said they are going to participate in a rally on Thursday, the final day of the convention when Trump will accept the Republican nomination.