Around 7:30 p.m., members of Revolutionary Communist Party marched for the 18 members of their group that were arrested on Wednesday during an American flag burning. Marching from Public Square to the Cleveland Justice Center, the dozen or so RevCom marchers (one of whom carried a papier mâché pig) were followed by a ridiculous amount of police, including a whole bunch of cowboy hat-rocking cops on horses. Right when RevCom arrived at the Justice Center, 16 of the arrestees were being let out, including Joey Johnson, who burned the flag Wednesday and rather infamously, burned a flag at the 1988 convention, a gesture that went all the way to the Supreme Court where it was declared protected under free speech.
"I've heard of jail support but this takes the fucking cake," Johnson joked before speaking to the crowd about the gesture. Johnson went on to decry the United States and the election system in which your options are either an "open fascist" (Trump) or a "proven war criminal" (Clinton). RevCom fed and gave water to the arrestees and the group cheered triumphantly. Then they moved on to point out that two of their members were still inside and also that the 16 arrestees had been detained for more than 24 hours.
The ACLU had also made a statement on the arrests questioning how Cleveland, a city that had prepared for mass arrests couldn't get these dozen-plus people out in less than 24 hours and accused Cleveland of doing it on purpose to make sure these specific activists couldn't protest more. RevCom, meanwhile, also countered the police claim that Johnson set himself on fire during the burning and said that two still inside, for felony assault of a police officer, were assaulted by the police, not the other way around.
Not far from the Public Square is Bloom Bakery, a mildly fancy, very delicious cafe that employs those with criminal records and other "barriers to employment," as they say. It's a lunch spot with a noble goal, and to top it all off, it's right next to a Starbucks, almost mocking the big chain's phoney-baloney attempts at incorporating some social justice into their caffeine-hawking. If you're ever in Cleveland, swing by (there is another location near Cleveland State University)—we recommend the Coronation Sandwich ("chicken breast roasted and mixed with our homemade wild curry sauce") on wheat with a quinoa salad. Also, both times I went in there they were playing "Pure Moods Vol. 1," so I got to vibe to 'Return To Innocence' while eating some fancy food. When you go there, I encourage you to tip the shit out of whoever's working.
Last night, as I pulled into the parking lot of the Cudell Rec Center, near where Tamir Rice was killed by Officer Timothy Loehmann, NPR was talking about Charles Kinsey, the North Miami behavioral therapist shot in the leg by police three times while he was dealing with one of his patients, a man with autism.
The gazebo which Rice was standing near when he was shot is piled with stuffed animals. Some wooden posts nearby have been colorfully painted and written on, including some words from Assata's Chant and the phrases "Young Black King Tamir" and "We gon' be alright," among others. They add a disquieting and empowering element to the spot.
My few minutes there today were baffling: A mother of two argued with a young man about Rice's culpability in the shooting; a woman walked by with her partner and declared, "I don't even want to stand near there, someone might shoot me." Then, a young man who saw City Paper photographers with cameras in hand (NPR was there also at the same time) asked if I was a photographer. I told him no and asked why he wanted to know. "I'm trying to get a job with Nickelodeon," he told me.
What's even more apparent when you see the location of Rice's shooting is how emphatically and inarguably unnecessary it was. The gazebo is close to the curb but it's in a parking lot, so Officer Loehmann had a few seconds to assess the situation before he got out of the car. And there are at least three different ways into the park—this officer and his partner, Frank Garmback, chose the most direct and dangerous one.
El Hajj Amir Khalid A. Samad, who marched at the front of the End Poverty Now Rally that City Paper attended on Monday and who worked in law enforcement for nearly 20 years talked to me this morning about Rice's murder during a recess in his Peace in the Hood summer camp (a full story of Samad will be coming soon).
"You saw that nonsense, man," Samad sighed out in front of the Peace in the Hood community center, the heat pounding down around 11 a.m.. "Shooting like a cowboy..."
Samad went on to say that if you actually go to the location of the shooting you can spot many "tactical advantages" the officers could have taken to engage Rice before firing, including a small hill on one side of the gazebo that has a long road behind it. He said they easily could have approached Rice from that way, employed the hill as protection, and asked to see his hands. But Officer Loehmann didn't do anything of that, he just fired his gun into a 12-year-old boy.
Code Pink done did it again. After already interrupting the RNC a few times this week, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin stoop up last night while Trump was yelling—sorry, we can't really call what he did a speech, it was a yell—and held up a sign that said, "Build Bridges Not Walls." Another clever Code Pink action happened on Tuesday when Benjamin and others walked up the entrance of the RNC with tennis balls in their hands, as Benjamin gripped a sign that read, "Banned In Cleveland" and then checked off "Tennis Balls" but not "Guns" (Cleveland put out a list of 72 "weapons" not allowed in the RNC 'event zone' that includes tennis balls but not guns). Code Pink is persistent. Two different members approached both me and Reginald Thomas II and played upset convention-goer, shaking a credential-less RNC lanyard and explaining how their pass fell off, and if they could just borrow ours for awhile, they'd meet us later on and totally give it back. Clearly, they tricked a couple of people this week with that shtick.
All the state fair qualities of Donald Trump's dumpy RNC didn't matter once he got up on the stage howled for 75 minutes about law and order, law and order, law and order, law and order. The shit just wasn't funny anymore. See, if you were enmeshed in the RNC this week, and all of its disorganized clusterfuckiness and just like, junk culture lameness (Scott Baio? Antonio Sabato Jr.?), and saw that Trump supporters, or at least the mostly moneyed ones here, as the posturing ninnies they are, you could be lulled into thinking Trump and his misogyny and ethno-nationalism mixed with a bit of boutique liberalism weren't to be taken too seriously. But after last night's speech, even the Hitler comparisons so-called "reasonable" folks have been fighting against do not seem like overstatements. A whole arena hooted and howled at a man who just hoots and hollers hate at them. Again, for an hour-plus.
When I ventured outside the RNC where many gathered to watch Trump's speech via MSNBC's monitors, I saw a man coldly asking an Indian couple if they were from Iraq. Another guy yelled about how "Muslim and fags and Mexicans" should all be shot. And just lots of thousand-yard stares. If you think Hillary Clinton sucks too, that's fine, but at Clinton events, people aren't harassing brown people or throwing the word "nigger" around the way they are at Trump events, so spare me with the "both candidates are the same" talk. At the RNC, you're constantly being sussed out: Are you one of us or one of them?"