After a long and exhaustive search (it was also exhausting because it's been hot out here all week), City Paper found the only voter registration booth near the Republican National Convention. And “near” might be a stretch considering the booth is about a mile away from the Quicken Loans Arena, the site of the convention. There are none inside the convention perimeter; none in the demonstration-filled Public Square; none on the pedestrian-only street East 4th Street, which is filled with convention tourists and Ohio locals. This comes at a time when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has consistently claimed how many new voters he has brought in while campaigning.
The lonely booth in Willard Park, which is mostly cut off to vehicular traffic thanks to security, was set up by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland. Patricia Carter of the non-partisan LWV said the league saw an opportunity to get voters registered considering the traffic created by the convention. But so far, they have registered just 15 new voters over four days.
When they applied for tent spot with the City of Cleveland, city officials said they could place their booth in Willard Park or Perk Plaza, which is slightly closer, but still a 10 minute walk to the convention site.
“We believe we should get everyone to vote,” said LWV co-president Susan Marnane. “That is how the best decisions get made.”
Additionally, there appeared to been little voter-registration presence in Pubic Square whatsoever. City Paper spoke with several legal observers who are assigned to watch the action, and they said they have not seen any person going around and asking people to register to vote. Natasha Segarra, a Downtown Cleveland resident who has been a regular at Public Square during the convention said she has not seen people trying to resister people to vote, either.
“There is a lot of potential for voter registration,” said Segarra. “I think it is really weird, especially because [Ohio] is a swing state.”
In fact, Ohio has been losing registered voters of the years. The Buckeye State expires voters if they fail to frequently vote and tens of thousands of voters will have to re-register if they wish to vote in the November election, according to Reuters.
Emily Waters, a paid political petitioner attempting to get Ohio voters to sign her petition in Public Square, was baffled that there were no voter registration presence close to the convention.
“Why are they not registering people to vote? That is fucked up,” said Walters. “This is an amazing opportunity, either they don't want people to vote or they are just missing out.”
It could be the former. CP reported on July 20, that Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said to a group of young Republicans attending the RNC: “I don't' want to increase voter turnout unless they vote for me.”
Cuyahoga County resident Peter Jedick is at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week to promote his new book How Democrats Bankrupted America. According to Jedick, the book examines America's debt crisis and provides solutions for solving it.
"We have this huge national debt that nobody wants to talk about," says Jedick.
Despite its importance, Jedick says the debt crisis hasn't garnered as much attention in the upcoming presidential election as it should.
"Trump has mentioned it. He talked about renegotiating," says Jedick. "But the solutions he comes up with aren't well thought out. I don't think he's going to think real hard about anything until he gets in [to office.]"
Because of his passion over the debt issue and the little faith he seems to have in Trump's ability to solve it, you'd think Jedick would be rethinking voting for his party's presidential candidate. He isn't.
"His personality isn't the greatest, but I'm a conservative Republican so he's who I'm going to go with," Jedick says.
The fact that many in the Republican party aren't a fan of Trump isn't new. Before his opponents dropped out of the race, many Republican leaders were hesitant to express support for the reality TV star who catapulted into notoriety thanks to an incurable case of verbal diarrhea.
While some delegates at the convention this week seemed to be hoping for a last minute hail mary, and Trump's former opponent Sen. Ted Cruz failed to endorse the Republican nominee in his speech last evening, most have resigned themselves to standing behind him.
One of the reasons seems to be that while Republicans like Jedick aren't sure Trump has actual plans for how he'll improve the country, they're confident he'll fill his cabinet with people who do.
"There comes a point where you have to embrace the unexpected, you have to embrace the unimaginable," says Florida delegate Sean Jackson, who initially supported Jeb Bush. "Even though Trump wasn't my first choice, I am learning every day what a formidable candidate he is. A perfect example is his running mate selection. I think he's doing a good job at putting in place people who will make America great again."
And other delegates at the RNC say even though Trump wasn't their first choice, his victory in November will ensure a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
"I switched to Trump after he became the last person out of the 17 that were running," says David Foreman, alternate delegate from Texas who supported Sen. Marco Rubio. "More important to me than Trump or even [Hillary] Clinton, is the issues. I support the issues. And I support the Republican party because we can't afford to have liberal justices appointed."
"If for no other reason, the Supreme Court is why you vote for him," says Arizona alternate delegate Corky Haynes. "He's also put out a list of the type of constitutionalist he would pick."
Haynes and fellow Arizona alternate Barbara Wylie of Grassroots Grandmas, a conservative Tea Party group, say Trump is filling his knowledge gaps with people and organizations like the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
"He knows he doesn't know it all," says Haynes.
"Like him or hate him, we need him," says Wylie. "And he's listening to the right people."
From Multimedia Editor Ashley Murray About 15,000 journalists descended on Cleveland for the Republican National Convention this week, and the media center — dubbed "Media Row" — is full of work stations for nearly 90 outlets. There are the big players of course — CNN has its own CNN Grill just outside of the Quicken Loans Arena. But there's also a diverse range of outlets, from legacy media to two guys in a sound booth uploading to Soundcloud. There's media for media — Skype has partnered with the Associated Press to "offer a cost-efficient alternate solution to satellite broadcasting," a Skype representative tells City Paper's multimedia editor Ashley Murray.
Logo TV's — the LGBT-focused TV network — political correspondent Raymond Braun has been walking around inside and outside of the convention wearing a rainbow flag so LGBT Republicans "feel comfortable talking to me." The network is here looking at two main topics: the experience of being LGBT and Republican, and "how you reconcile being part of a party that adopted what is widely considered the most anti-LGBT platform ever," he says. "My mission is to bring LBGTQ issues front and center in American politics." Braun says he's spoken to most white gay men at the RNC, and says "They're saying 'Human beings are complex and the party does not represent all of our views, but we can make change by speaking out on what matters to us.'"
Al Jazeera network tells Murray they brought five teams from their Arabic, English and Balkan services as well as their Washington, D.C., bureau. "Al Jazeera Arabic [in Doha, Qatar] is going live to the RNC three times a day," AJ news producer Ahmed Alsamariaa says.
Down the hall at Media Row, at local CBS affiliate Cleveland 19 News, a station editor says work has been exciting and busy for his station between the Cavs' NBA championship win and the RNC. Anchor and reporter Dan DeRoos prepares for a live shot on a TV set. "It literally feels like Cleveland is spinning right now, but in a good direction."
CP's multimedia editor Ashley Murray also couldn't miss Pa. 12th District delegate Mike McMullen, who was walking around the RNC in a Crosby jersey with a Terrible Towel draped over his shoulder. You can take the delegate out of Pittsburgh, but you can't take the Pittsburgh (or, Pittsburgese, just listen) out of the delegate.
CP's multimedia editor Ashley Murray followed up with Desmond Harrison, the local vendor we covered on Tuesday. Harrison has since set up shop in a better spot — on Prospect and East 4th, across from the Q. Sandwiched between vendors who traveled from Nevada and Arizona, Harrison says he's barely broken $1,000. (He told CP on Tuesday that he invested $3,000 in product.) Still hopeful, he says "I learned a lot this week."
It's north of 90 degrees, sweat is beading off her upper lip and Pastor Lori McPher son of Maryland says she has to stand in Public Square in front of anti-gay, anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-everything protesters at the RNC in Cleveland.
“Somebody has to do it,” McPherson says, “No one from the GOP's going to do it. The delegates arren't going to stand here and contradict their hate speech.”
As she stood there, McPherson occasionally laughed as the protesters made inane, insulting and completely ridiculous comments about the evils of masturbating, being black, being gay, being muslim or pretty much anything other than a white male who spews asinine rhetoric. She almost seems like it doesn't bother her. Don't let that look fool you.
“I mean, how could it not bother me,” she says. “This is the worst kind of hate speech. You can't let that go unchecked.
According to RNC delegate Sean P. Jackson, chairman of the Black Republican Caucus of Florida, the biggest problem facing American education is "a lack of funding." And how can the nation's lawmakers solve that problem?
"Put some more money for education in the budget," Jackson says.
His notion is far from traditional. Republicans aren't known to be advocates for increasing federal spending for much besides national security. And locally, former Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett (R) spearheaded one of the largest cuts to education funding the state has ever seen.
But at an education event held earlier today, Jackson said education funding issues are hurting schools around the country. And he said it's not just about increasing funding, but also ensuring funds are being spent correctly at the local level.
"I don't think it's an unpopular idea among Republicans," Jackson says. "Allocation of funding at the local level has been prioritized in the wrong ways."
Today's event was hosted by the National School Board Action Center as part of their campaign to make public education a talking point in the presidential election. They'll also be hosting an event at the Democratic National Convention next week.
"We have not heard from our candidates about education at all," says JoDee Sundberg, NSBAC president. "I would like to hear what their plans are. Will they be advocates for the 50 million children around the country in public schools?"
From Ryan Deto On Day 3 of the Republican National Convention, Cleveland Chief of Police Calvin Williams spent an afternoon walking around Public Square meeting and greeting protesters, demonstrators and bystanders. Public Square is a large park in Downtown Cleveland, just a few blocks from the Quicken Loans Arena, the site of the RNC.
“So far so good,” said Williams about policing during the convention. There have been some arrests, like at a flag burning near the convention site on July 20 and Public Square saw a minor scuffle erupt when Alex Jones, of controversial conspiracy website Infowars.com, made an appearance, but largely, violence has been absent.
After three days, nothing controversial has happened involving police officers, and a deeper look into the policing strategies may reveal why. For one, there are thousands of police officers present all throughout Downtown Cleveland, from nearly 20 different units, some hailing from as far away as California. The convention site is also walled-off by more than two miles of 8-foot-high chainlink fence, cutting off access to a block of downtown about a square mile in area. There are even several small police boats patrolling the Cuyahoga River, which runs down in a small valley from the convention site.
And while the police presence and warzone-like aesthetic might be off-putting to some, police expert and University of Pittsburgh professor David Harris said that it is not that surprising, considering the ethos of law enforcement.
“The perceptive of law enforcement usually follows the ‘better-safe-than-sorry’ model,” said Harris. “But this is not always fair, if you come out to protest.”
Harris said that protesters may be drawing the short straw, considering the majority of their demonstrations are happening blocks from the convention entrance, blocks away from the delegates they’re trying to influence. Some protests have occurred right next to the entrance, but the largests ones have taken place at Public Square, where delegates and convention goers can easily circumvent.
“You want delegates to see the protests, and not effectively cut off the protests to the people who count the most,” said Harris.
A similar situation occurred in Pittsburgh in 2009 when the city hosted the G-20 Summit at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. All highway exits and bridges were blocked and a line of police officers blocked protesters in the Strip at around 31st Street. No international leaders saw the lass of protests.
The same is going on here. In fact, City Paper reported the basically silent protests going on at another Cleveland-designated “demonstration site,” more than two miles from convention. And all this after the ACLU of Ohio won a case against the RNC, after challenge their strict protest rules.
But when the protests have actually escalated to a somewhat tense level, the police have been there to effectively calm the action with a relatively new method: bikes. The Cleveland Police Department purchased hundreds of mountain bikes, thanks to a federal grant, and have had officers ride into action and form barriers with their bikes. The city received a $50 million federal grant for convention security. $20 million for new equipment and the rest for personnel.
Chief Williams says that the police department has been trained to use the bikes in this way and that the technique emerged about a year ago. Harris said he has not heard of police forces using bikes in this way before, but said bikes can be effective tools for officers since they are the fastest way to get around dense areas.
Bikes may also be a more calming force, since people are rarely intimidated by them, according to Harris. He says this is in contrast with mounted police on horseback. “A bicycle can’t kick you.”
Another new technique potentially calming the crowd is the use of hand-held video recorders. Even though police officers have body cameras, they sometimes are holding up camcorders to document the action. One Cleveland police officer told CP this is to get a different perspective than the body cameras.
Harris said hand-held video recorders, in addition to being regulated differently than body cameras, also offer a different perspective to the public too. “Being on video might chill your desire to practice your first amendment right.”
Harris also wonders if the constant visible presence is necessary. He said when the G-20 summit was in Pittsburgh, police officers also amassed large numbers and used similar techniques when policing Downtown Pittsburgh. He said the result was mostly a ghost town.
Harris thinks having officers at the ready, but in a not publicly visible staging area would be a more effective method
“You want to be ready for anything, but not necessarily present yourself [an omnipresent] way,” said Harris.
12:30 p.m.: Photos from Day 3 at the RNC are up now, from photographer Aaron Petan.
Photograph by Aaron Petan
CP's multimedia editor Ashley Murray reports on the party atmosphere at the Republican National Convention. Bars inside the security perimeter are open all day but issue a last call each evening before the session begins. Is it so Republicans don't skip the speeches and stay outside to imbibe? Don't worry, the bars open again immediately after the session and serve into the wee hours.
The big news from Day Three was of course Sen. Ted Cruz not endorsing Donald Trump. Last night, I compared it to a mic drop. But I think this scene from the Original Bad News Bears movie is closer to what happened. In the film Joey the pitcher was slapped by his dad and he got revenge by letting the other team score. Cruz, if you remember, took quite the personal beating from Trump. In recent months Trump has called Cruz a liar and attacked both Cruz's wife and father. This was definitely Ted Cruz's "Throw the ball Joey" moment. I'll have some more thoughts on Cruz's speech later once I arrive in Cleveland for the last day of the convention.
Our Own Ryan Deto described the feeling in the room last night thusly:
"Members of the crowd were even shouting "Endorse Trump!" But, Cruz didn't give in to their demands. "Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust and are faithful to the [U.S.] Constitution," said Cruz, but did not say to vote for Trump. Cruz, ironically, mentioned Republican Party unity a few times in his speech."