Cleveland has been the butt of jokes for decades. Much of it is rooted in class arrogance, reflecting bourgeois contempt for an overwhelmingly blue-collar town, along with racism towards the city’s African-American majority. Attacks on Cleveland in the 20th century were rooted in anti-immigrant sentiment directed at workers from Poland, Slovenia and Ireland.
These days, however, comedians are having a field day with the siege-like restrictions being imposed during the five days that Clevelanders will be subjected to the omnipresence of the Republican National Convention. The lengthy list of prohibited items includes everything from “sabres” to tennis balls. Toy guns, including squirt guns, are prohibited. City administrators, however, have cited the Second Amendment as the reason for allowing neofascist Trump supporters to carry firearms in this “open-carry” state. Even those of us who grew up here, who would bristle at the old Cleveland jokes, are getting a chuckle.
But quickly humor is replaced with anger as it becomes obvious that all these restrictions are strictly one-sided and intended to suppress dissent. The Democratic city administration, in collusion with the RNC and Homeland Security, is treating the Second Amendment — allowing possession of arms — like a sacred cow for the far right. Meanwhile, they trash the First Amendment — allowing freedom of speech — for the militant anti-Trump activists who will be coming from near and far.
The process for obtaining permits to protest has been one of ongoing chaos. Many groups and organizations started filing in February for permits to march and rally during the RNC. Then on May 26, city officials, flanked by the Secret Service and the RNC Welcoming Committee, announced that everyone had to electronically re-submit applications for permits.
There were many glitches in this new “system.” City workers are cutting and pasting to help various groups secure needed paperwork. There still has been no confirmation of approval by Cleveland officials, four weeks before the convention.
New toys for cops = terror against the oppressed
There is widespread outrage, locally and around the country, over the invasion of Cleveland by Trump’s army of immigrant-bashers, Islamophobes, misogynists, anti-LGBTQ haters and right-wing racists. For these forces to hold their convention in Cleveland, a symbol of racist police violence, is an affront to the families of Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, victims of police killings – and to the whole Black Lives Matter movement.
On top of that, a consent decree with the Department of Justice, which found in the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) a pattern of excessive use of force, has been lifted for the purpose of maintaining “order” during the four days of the RNC.
Some of the materials secured for the CDP include 2,000 sets of riot-control suits, including upper-body and shoulder protective gear; tactical hard-knuckle gloves; shin guards; 2,000 sets of batons, baton caps and collapsible baton holders; pepper balls and OC (tear-inducing) pepper spray; as well as night vision goggles for police horses, new horse trailers; and new vans to transport arrestees. (Cleveland.com)
All of these “goodies” are being paid for by a $50 million Homeland Security grant, but the CDP gets to keep these new toys! The CDP inherits a whole arsenal of the most modern anti-insurrection weapons. Who will they be used against? To pose the question is to answer it.
The world knows the name Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old murdered in cold blood while playing with a toy gun in typical “shoot first, ask questions later” fashion. His murderers are still on the force, as are the killers of unarmed Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, who died after the infamous 137 bullets were fired into their car. Tanisha Anderson was asphyxiated to death after police forced her to the ground; her family had called 911 for an ambulance — not police — during a medical emergency.
Now the racist CDP, which has long operated like an occupying army in the African-American community, will be equipped like a real army. Part of the DOJ Consent Decree signed by Cleveland has mandated the wearing of body cameras by police. Unfortunately, the new riot control suits will not be able to accommodate body cameras. The last time the city was under DOJ supervision was from January 2002 to February 2004. Nothing changed then and nothing will change now unless forced to by a mighty mass movement that insists that Black lives matter.
No protection for Trump-stumpers!
Shut it down!
This blatant disregard for Black lives and for all oppressed peoples is being challenged. Various marches and a “People’s Convention,” are being planned to counter the RNC. These include a march and rally on July 17, the Sunday before the RNC opens, to “Shut Down Trump and the RNC.” Initial sponsors are the New York and Baltimore chapters of the People’s Power Assembly; the Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement; the Moratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs; the International Action Center; and the Solidarity Center NYC.
People from as far away as Texas and North Carolina are talking about carpools or even chartering buses to come. The endorser list is growing and includes the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression; the Milwaukee Anti-War Committee; People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism and Racism (POWIR); Students for a Democratic Society at College of DuPage; the United Workers Organization of Wisconsin; the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA); Minnie Bruce Pratt, United Auto Workers Local 1981, National Writers Union (for ID only); the United National Antiwar Coalition; and Muslims for Social Justice.
You will want to be there. For more information, go to Shut Down TRUMP & the RNC on facebook, email [email protected] or call (216) 452-8473.
Susan Schnur contributed to this article.