Complex at the RNC: Chaos on Cleveland's Streets

We explore Cleveland neighborhoods to see the Republican National Convention's impact.

Not Available Lead
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

Not Available Lead

Tuesday, July 19

I ran 3.5 miles through the streets of downtown Cleveland, past law enforcement officers with guns, Republican delegates, folks selling tee shirts that said things like TRUMP 2016 and HILLARY FOR PRISON, homeless people, media folks and protesters at every turn, and local Cleveland folks trying to make it through all of this on their lunch breaks. There's an energy of uneasy tension throughout the city, and I'm not sure if it's the massive police presence, protesters on all sides, or the fact that Cleveland residents have had their city taken over.

It is especially hectic in two places. One of them is Public Square, where folks gather to sell things, rally, yell over each other, and make their points about one issue or another. Then there is Euclid, a main strip where an anti-police brutality march was held Tuesday night. Police sectioned off the marchers, as officers rode bicycles or horses, or walked on foot, herding the march where they had been told to go. Euclid and East 4th Street, in the heart of downtown Cleveland, is the heart of the action. Locals call this block "an alley" because it is very narrow and loaded with restaurants, a House of Blues, a comedy spot, homeless people, and street musicians. MSNBC put not one but two mobile studios on this block, eating up much of the walking area as a result. The block is packed and hot, with folks on either side of the aisle butting heads, cursing each other, or holding posters. 

I run into one young man from Minnesota who is pissed that the voices of delegates representing his views were not heard. He is a Ted Cruz supporter, still, and does not want Donald Trump to be President. While he's talking, we get word about two developments: One is that the Trump campaign refuses to acknowledge that Melania Trump lifted parts of her speech from First Lady Michelle Obama. And second, that Alaska's delegates erupted in anger when their votes were ignored. (The state's rules dictate that delegates' votes be allocated proportionally to primary results, meaning 12 for Cruz, 11 for Trump, and five for Rubio. But according to Alaska Dispatch News, party officials announced that all of the state's delegate votes went to Trump.) Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan is there to restore order on the floor, and Donald Trump officially becomes the Republican nominee for President. His son, Donald, Jr., is playing a decisive role as a New York State delegate. 

I decided to grab a cab to go into the heart of the Land's ghetto, the eastside of Cleveland, East Cleveland, and Cleveland Heights communities. It is night and day compared to Downtown Cleveland and the nonstop money being spent at the RNC. There are many abandoned buildings, broken glass everywhere, children on one street corner selling bottles of water to passing cars, and barely any open businesses, except for a soul food or Chinese restaurant here and there.

I do notice that even in the ‘hood people are selling Trump and Republican tees, hats, and other items. People gotta do what they gotta do to make a dollar, I understand. But I am still sad because I know these are the people many politicians talk about but often forget once elections come and go. The poverty is terrible in these areas, the same kind of poverty I came from in my hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey. I keep thinking about the Trump slogan MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN knowing that the statement begs a very simple question: For whom?

Latest in Life