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Thousands protest, pro and con, at GOP convention in Cleveland

Anti-Trump demonstrators hold hands to separate police officers

Anti-Trump demonstrators hold hands to separate police officers on bicycles from their march near the Quicken Loans Arena on the day of the start of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, Monday, July 18, 2016. Credit: Charles Eckert

CLEVELAND — Thousands descended on this city espousing opposing views of Donald Trump, marching and chanting on the first day of the Republican National Convention.

The protests and speeches were peaceful but fiery under the watchful eye of Cleveland police, who rode alongside marchers as other officers, including State Police from South Carolina and Indiana, stood nearby.

“Donald Trump, go away, racist, sexist, anti-gay,” protesters with the Coalition to Stop Trump and March on the RNC chanted in the streets. In another instance, some chanted “Black Lives Matter,” in reference to the movement that has sprung up nationwide to protest the death of unarmed black men by police.

Shawn Witte, 31, a Marine Corps veteran, started waving a large American flag as anti-Trump protesters marched past. Witte, of Los Angeles, said Trump “might be a bigot,” but he was supporting Trump because he’s “near righteous compared to Hillary Clinton.”

“Everybody is divided. Everybody is angry and hateful. I may not agree with everything Black Lives Matters says, but they have a right to say it,” Witte said.

Kim Snyder, 57, a staff member of Bethel Cleveland in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, and a Trump supporter, said, “I’m just here to de-escalate. I’m here to pray for the police, specifically, and to pray protection for everybody that’s down here.”

Snyder, who wore a purple shirt that said “Free Hugs” — one of four shirts she planned to wear each day during the convention — hugged Indiana State Police.

Some Trump backers openly carried guns, as allowed under Ohio law. Jesse Gonzales, 26, of Lakewood, Ohio, said he slung his AR-15 over his shoulder to exercise his constitutional right.

“Gradually, there’s been a great deal of social pressures to eliminate that right,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Rodrigo Carapi, 25, a Mexican immigrant who came to the country as a child, said he marched because he was tired of Trump “spreading a lot of hate.”

“We want dignity and we want respect,” said Carapi, 25, an art teacher from Milwaukee.

Frank White, 58, of Columbia County, New York, said, “I’m here to protest the RNC and the idea of Donald Trump being president.”

White, who said he has not decided whether to vote for Clinton, said: “It’s risky with Donald Trump really not having a presidential head on his shoulders.”

Other protesters denounced Trump and the Republicans in a more creative way.

The Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations held a news conference calling out Islamophobia. Trump has called for banning Muslims from coming into the country.

CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad said his group brought about 1,000 packets of the “fake medicine,” Islamophobin.

“It’s a cure to what ails the hearts and minds of those afflicted by Islamophobia,” Awad said.

Among the things Islamophobin treats is “Blind Intolerance” and “U.S. Presidential Election Year Scapegoating,” the box said.

With the Associated Press

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