CLEVELAND — Police officers brought out the riot gear as they made their way to downtown Cleveland late Wednesday to confront hundreds of protesters.
Although demonstrations have been largely peaceful here this week, police are said to be bracing for heavier protests today and Thursday when Donald Trump is set to speak. Trump arrived in Cleveland today to watch his son Eric, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the vice presidential nominee, deliver speeches this evening.
There have been reports of several fights and a flag burning demonstration, in addition to a handful of arrests. While Ohio is an open carry state, law enforcement has prohibited people from carrying weapons in the area around the convention, which is taking place at the Quicken Loans Center.
That hasn’t stopped demonstrators from trying to wreak havoc. Police have found rocks hidden, presumably by protesters, in downtown. Security detail coming into the city is also tight, with police searching vehicles. According to a source with knowledge, security detail has confiscated barrels of feces and fat, which were likely meant for a protest.
Still, security in Cleveland has been tight and downtown there have been no major incidences of violence. Walking through the downtown area, there’s a constant din of helicopters flying overhead, and the path to the convention center is lined with tall, wrought-iron fences that end in security check points.
The heightened security precautions come after the recent spate of police shootings throughout the country and the terrorist attack in Nice, France. Leading up to the convention, there were reports of journalists being offered the option of wearing helmets, flack jackets and carrying gas masks.
Journalists, many of whom have covered war zones, were surprised by the heavy, somewhat military-like security.
“The security here is bananas,” remarked CNN International’s Hala Gorani, who has covered numerous conflicts in the Middle East. “It’s like when you go into a green zone. It looks a little bit like a military zone.”