Cleveland braces for Republican convention and protesters

Published: Sunday, July 17, 2016 @ 1:45 AM
Updated: Sunday, July 17, 2016 @ 11:13 AM

TEAM CONVENTION COVERAGE

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Thousands of police officers are bracing for public protests in the streets of Cleveland. The dump-Trump movement is gasping its last breaths. Ohio’s top Republicans are keeping a relatively low profile.

Who knows what will happen but one thing is for sure: The 2016 Republican National Convention won’t be the typical scripted pep rally for the GOP and nominee.

>>> How Republicans are transforming the Q into a convention hall

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Donald Trump may deliver the most unconventional convention speech since Clint Eastwood spent 12 minutes talking to an empty chair at the 2012 GOP convention.

His unpredictable speeches are part of his appeal to voters who are sick of pre-packaged, overly-scripted career politicians. But Trump has angered millions of Americans with his comments about Mexicans, Muslims, women, people with disabilities and others.

>>> Guide to our coverage

“A Trump-centered convention, even though it’s right on the horizon, remains a hard thing to envision. And yet it’s happening,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia and author of ‘The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President.’ “Some of the speakers may be odd or not necessarily supportive of the nominee. Some people we might expect to appear at a Republican convention may not. We may also see violence. While some have suggested that nasty protests ultimately help Trump, there’s not a whole lot of evidence to back that up. Honestly, a successful convention may simply be Trump not doing or saying something new that is profoundly alienating to a certain group of voters. That’s a pretty low bar.”

Trump picks his No. 2

Trump heads into the GOP convention in Cleveland tied with Democrat Hillary Clinton in Ohio, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University, and a running mate he announced via — where else? — Twitter.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a tea party conservative from the heartland, joins Trump as his pick for vice president.

>>> Video: Learn more about Mike Pence

>>> Odd facts about Ohio’s 8 presidents

Pence, who is a former congressman and has been governor since 2013, is a staunch opponent of abortion, favors increased border security, opposes settling Syrian refuges in Indiana and advocates for tax cuts. As governor, he signed into law a religious freedom bill that critics said would permit discrimmination against gays and lesbians and Pence later revised the law.

Pence has given his full-backing to Trump, unlike Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has declined to endorse him.

How will Ohioans factor in?

Trump’s acceptance speech on Thursday comes exactly a year after Kasich launched his presidential campaign from Ohio State University. At the time, Trump’s candidacy for the Republican nomination was viewed as nothing more than a sideshow. But Trump tapped into voter anger and discontent with the political establishment and he beat 16 other Republicans.

>>> 5 times Ohio was the center of the political world

Kasich, who was the last GOP contender to drop out and cede the race to Trump, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Cincinnati and former House Speaker John Boehner all pushed for Cleveland to land the Republican convention. Yet none of the three will play an official role at the convention in their home state.

Boehner, who left Congress in October, is expected to attend a cocktail party in his honor.

Kasich, who is writing a book about his presidential run, is expected to speak to other state delegations and host a party for his supporters at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But the governor is expected to bolt out of Cleveland on Thursday before Trump’s acceptance speech.

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“I’m not shutting my political operation down,” Kasich told the Washington Post in a recent interview. “I’m not closing any doors. But my focus right now is going to be on the House, the Senate, and the down-ticket here in my state.”

No Republican has ever won the White House without taking Ohio. That fact doesn’t move Kasich to campaign for the Trump.

“It’s not on me,” Kasich told the Post. “If he was to lose Ohio and lose the election and people would blame me, that’s just life.”

Portman, who has endorsed Trump, says they have found common ground on issues such as China, economic growth and nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court. But Portman, who is in a tight re-election race against Democrat Ted Strickland, is doing his own thing at the convention: building a Habitat for Humanity home, kayaking on the Cuyahoga River with wounded veterans, hosting his campaign interns and attending a party at the Great Lakes Science Center. Although he has spoken at every GOP convention since 1996, he won’t be given the stage this time around.

“That’s what I’m going to focus on and I’m looking forward to it,” Portman said. “I know there are some people who wonder whether it is going to be good for Cleveland and I think Cleveland is going to be a welcoming and warm place for the delegates and others who come.”

Cleveland rocks

Still giddy over the Cavaliers’ 2016 NBA championship trophy, Cleveland is ready to show off its spiffed up downtown and tell 15,000 journalists in town for the convention just how hip and cool the once gritty industrial city is. Events are booked on Lake Erie, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in Little Italy and beyond.

>>> 6 foods to try in Cleveland and where to get them

But protests, parades and rallies could turn violent, casting a different story line over the Cleveland skyline.

Some 5,000 additional police officers have been lined up to help patrol the city, airspace over Cleveland is restricted and the Ohio National Guard has been activated. Local authorities, working in concert with the U.S. Secret Service and other federal agencies, cleared out 200 jail beds and reserved another 800 in undisclosed lock-ups near Cleveland, said Christine Link, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. The National Lawyers Guild has more than 100 attorneys lined up to observe and give jail support to protesters who are arrested.

Groups from the right, left and in between are expected to demonstrate, rally and jam. Citizens for Trump, Organize Ohio, Westboro Baptist Church are among the groups with city permits but Link said she believes more groups may just show up without getting prior approval.

The ACLU of Ohio filed suit on behalf of Trump supporters, union activists and homeless people to force the city of Cleveland to make parade and rally sites more accessible, loosen restrictions on prohibited items and tighten the downtown “event zone” where security will be tight.