Yesterday around 4 p.m., the End Poverty Now Rally, a two-mile march to downtown Cleveland near the RNC began. It followed a free performance by Prophets of Rage, the protest rap-rock group consisting of Chuck D of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill and members Rage Against the Machine. Also on the bill: Baltimore acts Son Of Nun (who performed his Kwame Rose speech-sampling, 'It's Like That' among others) and Ryan Harvey, as well as Rebel Diaz.
Featuring a bunch of activist organizations including the Revolutionary Communist Party and Code Pink, about 400 people marched. Frequently at the front of the march was community activist El Hajj Amir Khalid A. Samad leading the group with chants against poverty, abuse of taxpayer money, and more. Ostensibly, this was a protest on behalf of the poor, though there was also plenty of talk from the group about Donald Trump and issues of police brutality—all of this stuff is tied together and systemic, all right?
The End Poverty Now Rally felt familiar to City Paper, though this march was more organized than most in Baltimore and there was more unity among the different groups. Protests in Baltimore, especially of late, often seem fractious, with certain groups not showing up if certain other groups are showing up and blah blah blah (although a series of marches lately, especially last Saturday's #AFROMATION suggest that Baltimore's protest movement has been reinvigorated).
What was also interesting however, was that there was far less animosity towards police at this march, though we'd also point out that the police were far less aggressive here than in Baltimore (they also for the most part wore their nametags or had badge numbers visible). These marchers also had a permit, so take that into account.
Still, one troubling tactic by Cleveland police was a line of bike cops, some of them in sci-fi movie protective gear, others not so much, who essentially created a fence on each side of the protest keeping it in the streets. Also: you really can't overstate how absurd these cops in all the protective gear look. Given the spectacle-chasing nature of the week so far, at first we thought maybe it was group dressed up all "1984"-ish as some kind of performance art parody of the police state Trump's rise anticipates.
At the very back of the march, not far from the "Rollerball"-ish bike cops was Public Enemy frontman and now, frontman for Prophets Of Rage, Chuck D.
City Paper briefly spoke to Chuck thanks to CP Photo Editor J.M. Giordano who interrupted the inane questions of a Huffington Post reporter to ask Chuck D about the recent not guilty verdict for Lt. Brian Rice, one of the officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death.
"[The verdict is] expected because the law is the law and the law has a secret code that has to be kind of like, dealt with," Chuck D said, referring to the so-called "blue wall of silence" that encourages police officers not to report on one another for misconduct and error. Chuck D added that the police are "no different from the criminal organizations that said [they] ain't gonna have snitches."
He went on.
"And then, in all fairness, you're policing an area, but there's got to be something different than slave patrol. Three things that always confuse me about the police issue. I come from a small town in Roosevelt, I've been seeing it forever: The silent code, no matter what by any means necessary we got a silent code, it's the brotherhood versus the hood of brothers thing...[But] if shit does wrong, that means that person violated, man, that person fucked up your whole order, so that's got to go; the quota thing, 'I've got to pull somebody over to get this money. So you've got a busted taillight at the end of the month? I could talk to you and let you go...but I'm fucking writing you a fucking ticket'; and the third one is, why don't the police live in the community that they're policing? And I hear, well it's dangerous that way, well fuck, the job is dangerous."
At the Republican National Convention later that evening, speaker Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke called Lt. Brian Rice's acquittal "good news" and derided Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby as an "activist," resulting in plenty of applause.
The group of 300 or so marchers all ended up a park at Chester Street and East 12th Street downtown. They gathered and spoke, then debriefed and slowly dispersed.
A couple hours later, around 7:30 p.m., the Revolutionary Communist Party arrived in front of one of the entrance gates for the Republican National Convention, near where MSNBC is broadcasting—it's a location that has already become ground zero for protest, grandstanding, and all-around weirdness, from Jesus Freaks to out and proud open-carriers to a guy dressed like Abraham Lincoln to MSNBC's Chris Matthews—everything is happening there.
RevCom placed their famous sign of the faces of many of the people killed by police and also offered up a new sign, which was an arrest warrant for Rudy Giuliani who was speaking at the RNC. RevCom spoke out against Trump, capitalism, the two-party system, and reminded folks of Giuliani's involvement in stop-and-frisk policing and also offered up a number of rebukes to a nearby street preachers (one of many walking around) who is adamantly anti-pornography, anti-homosexuality, and really anti-just-about-everything. He's committed, I'll say that much.
Then at one point, a group of young women began mocking the preacher, kissing and touching one another in front of him as he spoke. As the anti-porn street preacher bemoaned the possibility of a country where "the wicked spring up like the grass," where there would be "lesbians on every corner," one of the women in the group's eyes lit-up and she cheered at the idea of "lesbians on every corner."
A "lesbians on every corner" chant began, rippling through the crowd.
Also, at some point rape advocate Roosh V. showed up? For those who don't remember, Roosh V. runs the Return Of Kings website where he fires off anti-feminist rants with a focus on "seduction" (read: manipulation and coercion) techniques. When the same women who had clowned the anti-porn street preacher spotted him they began screaming, "Rapist!"
Elect the "Lesbians on every corner" women for president please.
Not long after, RevCom left and were followed down the street by a ridiculous amount of police—in total, probably 70 cops on bikes and a dozen or so on foot followed the dozen or so RevCom marchers across the downtown area.
Later that night during the Republican National Convention, two members of the anti-war group Code Pink, who had been part of the End Poverty Now Rally earlier in the day, briefly grabbed attention inside of the convention. The first held up a banner which read "YES WE CAN END WAR." She was quickly escorted out.
"That is why we need Trump," Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions said to the RNC crowd. Applause followed.
Later on, when Rudy Giuliani spoke, another Code Pink activist held up a sign that read "refugees welcome." She was also escorted out.
Nearly all of this by the way, seems so separate from Donald Trump himself and his core supporters. The RNC-goers are for the most part not Trump's core people, even if Trump has more in common with these right-wingers with access and a Jimmy Buffett fan vibe to them than his core supporters. This also might explain why, at least so far, Trump supporters here have not come out loudly and proudly—both a Bikers for Trump rally and a related Alex Jones-hosted rally yesterday were sparsely attended.
Namely, the Trump supporters here for the RNC really don't need to protest anything or confront anybody because they aren't actually under attack and they aren't even really suffering the way the white working class ethnonationalists that make up Trump's most fastidious group of supporters and show up at smaller Trump rallies ready to throw down, are suffering.
That's the difference between say, El Hajj Amir Khalid A. Samad or RevCom, and the Trump supporters, especially the mostly bougie ones at the RNC: the former have plenty to fear and fight for and that was made more obvious by the creepy law-and-order vibes ("Make American safe again") of the first night of the RNC, while the latter are just looking for a fight.
Additional reporting by J.M. Giordano.