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Police clear protesters from Cleveland square after altercation

A Cleveland police officer asks people loudly debating

A Cleveland police officer asks people loudly debating religious beliefs to stop yelling and speak quietly on Public Square near the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Credit: Craig Ruttle

CLEVELAND — Police swarmed into Public Square near the Republican National Convention hall here Tuesday, separating protesters and ultimately clearing the space after an altercation.

On the second day of demonstrations at the designated protest area about a half-mile from the Quicken Loans Arena, police stood behind lines of bicycles.

In unison, with warning, police lifted their bikes to push people back. Officers sliced through the packed square north and south, creating halves and then breaking them into quads. At one point the square was mostly empty, with many police in the middle.

In a brief interview in the square, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said: “There was one guy that basically kind of barreled his way through the crowd and got in somebody else’s face and they were trying to get at each other.”

Williams added: “I separated them, took that guy out. That was it.”

Police said there were no arrests. Williams said police “reacted professionally” and the protesters complied. “It wasn’t necessary to use force.”

With dozens of officers in Public Square, protesters with the Revolution Club stood in front of a large banner with scores of black faces, which said “Stop Murder By Police,” and chanted: “No more stolen lives.” Police videotaped the protest.

One group member said the march was called for by Revolutionary Communist Party co-founder Carl Dix and activist Cornel West.

Protesters chanted: “Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”

West told the crowd the protest “has nothing to do with the hatred of anybody. It has everything to do with keeping track of the humanity of those who have been overlooked . . . ”

West said that they wanted police to know that when a “precious” black youth is killed, “we are morally outraged. Just as, yes, when the police are killed . . . we are morally outraged.”

As the police advanced on the crowd with bicycles held in front as a barrier, Joseph Offutt, 22, of Dallas sat on the ground. He said he was saddened to see the division among people.

“If everybody can come together and unite as Americans . . . that’s more powerful than standing divided because right now, we’re showing a divided country,” he said.

At one point Wayne Drummond, a Cleveland Police deputy chief, reached over a police bicycle and helped Offutt up. They put their hands on each other’s shoulder and prayed.

Earlier Tuesday, a grassroots veterans group called on Donald Trump to “change his rhetoric” and accused the presidential candidate of using veterans as political props to advance bigotry and divisiveness.

Alexander McCoy, 28, a Marine Corps veteran and founder of #VetsvsHate, an anti-Trump veterans group, said in a news conference in the Public Square, “We saw that yesterday in the speeches that were given at the Republican National Convention where once again Donald Trump has exploited the grief of families who have lost loved ones to advance his own political ambitions.”

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