CLEVELAND — Some GOP convention delegates could not escape coming face-to-face with protesters Tuesday in the downtown area.
As protesters gathered in Public Square, drawing scores of police officers and reporters, some delegates and members of Congress were spotted walking around the square as they headed to the convention hall and other events.
The standoff between protesters and police early Tuesday evening ended peacefully and with no arrests.
The second day of the convention started off quietly. The public square downtown was bustling with a handful of protesters, several delegates, and onlookers early Tuesday afternoon. Police officers were on hand just in case, but the atmosphere was relaxed. One girl even took pictures with officers.
But that scene changed dramatically just a few hours later when protesters and scores of law enforcement officers and journalists descended on the square.
Protesters started gathering at about 4 p.m., when a protest against police brutality was expected. More police, included those mounted on horses, were present in the square. The West Ohio Minutemen, an Ohio militia group, walked along the edge of the square, carrying their rifles. Two other men with rifles were also in the square.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams also was in the square, greeting protesters and officers, and overseeing police.
As anticipation began to build, some delegates walked into the scene.
Don Larson, who is running for Congress in Ohio’s 9th District, headed toward the square because he wanted to hear the protesters’ arguments.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., was spotted leaving a nearby hotel heading in a different direction, but walking around the edge of the square.
Foxx said there wasn’t much of a commotion and that she still felt very safe.
In recent days, law enforcement officers have been stressing that they are prepared for any scenario. Law enforcement has been coordinating with the GOP convention’s Committee on Arrangements for the past year, according to an RNC source.
The committee has been working closely with the Secret Service, the Cleveland Police, the FBI, and additional state, local, and federal partners to ensure safety.
But concerns about violence persisted following Monday’s shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that left three police officers dead . The GOP convention in Cleveland presented an opportunity for protesters on opposing sides of emotional issues, such as criminal justice, to face off.
Those protesters faced each other Tuesday evening. Tensions in the square escalated when Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist and radio host, walked through the crowd. He held a rally Monday in support of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Jones was swarmed by media and shouted down by some protesters. There was a scuffle inside the mob, and police moved in to separate the group.
On the other side of the political spectrum, activist Cornel West was also spotted in the square. He, too, was mobbed by media.
Police on bikes and on foot moved swiftly around the square in various formations to separate close groups as the protests went on.
Protesters continued to gather, with the Revolutionary Communist Party joining as others chanting about police brutality.
The nearby New York delegation began to board buses to the convention. A few delegates in the hotel lobby were nervous about going outside. A security officer reassured one delegate that there were plenty of law enforcement officers on the scene.
Back in the square, protests continued, with opposing sides coming face to face.
Off to one side, some Black Lives Matter protesters and Trump supporters shouted at each other. They were barely visible when swarmed by media, aside from a white Trump sign and a piece of cardboard with “No Trump! No KKK!” on it protruding above the fray.
A small group of protesters, some wearing bandanas to cover their faces, broke out of the square. A crowd of police and media followed them downtown. At one point, police cleared the street.
As protesters began to move again and police officers lined up on bikes, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., turned around a nearby corner. He was on his way to dinner before the next convention session began.
Hoeven did not seem fazed by the large amount of police on the street before him. He said citizens had a right to protest and he was quick to commend the officers.
“Our law enforcement are really tremendous,” he said.