CLEVELAND — It’s not quiet here, but halfway through the Republican National Convention, Cleveland remains relatively calm.
Protesters have demonstrated passionately. Opposing factions have argued loudly.
Early mornings, so far, have been quiet, with public squares and parks largely empty. Except for law enforcement: The city is teeming with police from around the country who are visible in every direction, working in groups to patrol streets and parks.
By late morning, protesters start heading into the designated public areas. Example: A lunchtime Tuesday, Cleveland’s Public Square – the main protest area – was only starting to fill. But by 5 p.m., the square was so full – and raucous – that police had former a perimeter designed to manage the flow of the crowd.
— Tim O'Shei (@timoshei) July 20, 2016
Skirmishes and conflict have been minimal. Here’s a small one that got plenty of coverage: Police broke up a tussle Tuesday afternoon in Public Square between anti-Trump protesters and radio host/conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. That was well-publicized, but not a major event. It was quickly contained as the police moved in to create space in the crowd and circle the square. And later, after a march, police ordered a crowd of protesters who had congregated to disperse. The protesters listened.
Opposing factions spend a lot of time shouting at each other, but so far it’s been largely words. Perhaps the best example is Westboro Baptist Church, the hate group well known for protesting large events and sacred ones too, such as funerals.
As five members of Westboro took to the protest stage at 5 p.m for their designated half-hour slot, they held up “God Hates Fags” signs, preached into the microphone, and then sang their own version of Idina Menzel’s “Frozen” hit, "Let It Go,” among other songs.
Meanwhile, a much larger group of counter-protesters held up satirical signs with messages like “God Hates Bangs,” drowning out the Westboro message.
Afterward, the Westboro members walked out of the square and crossed the street. They were confronted verbally, including by a well-known political demonstrator named Vermin Supreme, who wears a boot as a hat, carries a My Little Pony bag, and a megaphone he uses to chirp comments at anyone whose message he doesn’t like — including Westboro.
But it was all words. Nobody – at least as far as any observer could see – touched them.