RNC Day Two: Fun, Sun and Tons of Guns

Donald Trump is the legit, non-presumptive Republican nominee for president. Breathe in the surrealness of this moment.

click to enlarge NICK SWARTSELL
Nick Swartsell

CLEVELAND – Hello all. Welcome to installment no. 2 of CityBeat’s dispatches from the land of Cleves, also known as “Did That Really Just Happen: The Blog Post” or “RNC 2016: Fun, Sun and Tons of Guns.”

First off, yes, that really did just happen: Donald Trump is the legit, non-presumptive Republican nominee for president. Breathe in the surrealness of this moment. All state delegations cast their votes at this evening’s RNC session at the luxurious and classy Quicken Loans Arena. Trump got an overwhelming 1,725 delegate votes, squashing runner up U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz as well as Ohio’s guy and third place finisher John Kasich, who grabbed just 120. But hey, the Big Queso is probably just glad he isn’t former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who netted an entire three delegates. Remember, when this whole thing started, many pundits thought the whole shebang was Jeb’s to lose. Well, he did. Badly. It is a sobering reminder of how far we’ve drifted into some weird alternate dimension. Bush at least got one more delegate than U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, though he finished three delegates behind neurosurgeon and all-around-weird-guy Ben Carson. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence also got the nod as the official candidate for vice president.

• As I mentioned yesterday, there was a great deal of controversy around this eventuality, with some “never Trump” delegates fighting tooth and nail to prevent his nomination or at least protest it to the greatest degree possible. More about that drama has come out today — a couple delegates who were seen as insufficiently pro-Trump say they felt intimidated by Trump folks, with one, Utah delegate Kara Birkeland, claiming she was harassed in the arena yesterday afternoon. Birkeland said Trump supporters yelled “you should die” at her in a bathroom during the afternoon session. Another anonymous anti-Trump delegate has also described an atmosphere of intimidation from Trump supporters. Earlier in the day, rumors floated on the convention floor that a committed group of never-Trump delegates were planning one a last-ditch effort to derail his nomination. However, whatever that effort was, it came to naught.

click to enlarge NICK SWARTSELL
Nick Swartsell

Ohio officially gave all its 66 delegates to Kasich — mostly because primary rules dictated it had to. The tenor from our state’s GOP delegates was a resigned acknowledgement that Trump had won, but that they didn’t have to be ecstatic about it.

“I’m a reluctant Trump supporter,” one told me. “I’m a Kasich fan, but this is how it is.”

• Ohio's delegates filed onto the convention floor just minutes before the session’s 5:30 start time, having been at a Kasich event taking place at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. More than 3,000, including yours truly, showed up for the event and waited in lines under the hot sun, though only 1,800 got in, not including yours truly. During the appearance, Kasich thanked his supporters, gave Ohio’s delegates a plaque and avoided all mention of Donald Trump. Kasich also appeared for breakfast with Michigan delegates, made an appearance for Illinois delegates and then spent his time during the RNC roll call vote at an event with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. That last gig is clearly a poke at Trump, who many have accused of alienating Hispanic voters with his over-the-top comments equating Mexican immigrants with rapists.

• The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was the place to be yesterday. 90s hit makers Third Eye Blind played an RNC-related concert there, trolling the entire crowd by advocating gay rights and refusing to play any of their hits. If you liked Third Eye Blind before, you might not now. If you weren't rocking "Semi-Charmed Life" before, maybe you should now. See, the RNC changes everything.

• Earlier in the day, three women climbed the 60-foot flag poles at the Hall of Fame to hang flags that read "Don't Trump Our Communities." The women were protesting against hydraulic fracking and in favor of immigrant rights. Their arrests bring the RNC's total arrest count up to five.

click to enlarge A racial justice activist and a Trump supporter square off in Cleveland Public Square. - NICK SWARTSELL
Nick Swartsell
A racial justice activist and a Trump supporter square off in Cleveland Public Square.

• And while we're on the subject, protests of all stripes got rowdier yesterday. Cleveland Public Square basically became an internet comment board come to life, with small groups of protesters arguing with each other until the tension coalesced into something bigger. A small sample of the atomized chaos: A St. Louis Trump supporter named Preston Kamler argued with racial justice advocates about who gets shot more often by police. A man from Yellow Springs named Micah Naziri wore an AR-15 and a kufi, headwear often worn by Muslim males, to protest against Trump’s Islamophobia as well as RNC and law enforcement requests to suspend open-carry laws during the convention.

click to enlarge Micah Naziri speaks with media about his open carry protest at Cleveland Public Square July 19. - NICK SWARTSELL
Nick Swartsell
Micah Naziri speaks with media about his open carry protest at Cleveland Public Square July 19.

Believe it or not, that was the calm part of the afternoon. Later, with hundreds of protesters of all types streaming into the area, the Westboro Baptist Church tussled with gay rights and racial justice activists. Career paranoiac Alex Jones and his Libertarian, Trump-boosting InfoWars crew got into a physical altercation with a socialist group called International Workers of the World. That last tangle got out of hand, and eventually dozens of cops swarmed in to break it up, clearing the square. That in turn triggered a march by a smaller contingent of activists, including a group of self-described revolutionary communists, which slowly made its way closer to the RNC. It eventually dissipated after several rounds of police herding protesters forcefully along the street. There were no arrests during those protests, according to the Cleveland Police Department.

• Then, after all that, the main event. Convention organizers again had a full slate of speakers lined up, and, again, many were befuddling. Though the official theme of the night was “Make America Work Again,” many speakers circled back to night one’s topics, including how Hillary Clinton should go to jail and how unsafe America is.

Among the more notable speakers: Trump’s son Donald Trump, Jr., who gave a full-volume address about the virtues of the free market, Trump’s daughter Tiffany Trump, Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who managed to almost entirely avoid mentioning Trump’s name, soap opera star Kimberlin Brown, who also owns an avocado farm, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who appeared to be slowly dying inside as he attempted to inject some talking points about substantive policy into the evening, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a one-time primary opponent to Trump who missed the nod for veep. Christie’s speech was framed as a mock-trial for (you guessed it) Hillary Clinton, and like many of the speakers for the night, he returned to the theme of fear Trump’s campaign has been hammering on.

“Let’s look around the world at the violence and danger today in every region that has been infected by her poor judgment,” Christie told the crowd before listing off locations that have seen unrest or tragedy under U.S. watch. The crowd replied with thundering chants of “lock her up!”

So, that’s how that went. Oh, also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention former primary contender Ben Carson’s deeply weird speech, which name-checked Lucifer in relation to Hillary, among other zigs and zags.

What will happen today? The convention starts back up at 7 p.m. and will feature speeches by VP nominee Mike Pence, former primary contenders U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and others. Until then, no one can tell what's up. A roll call vote on the rules of reality has been suspended.

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