17 ar­rested at flag-burn­ing near GOP con­ven­tion

Car­ni­val at­mos­phere in Cleveland core

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - MICHAEL R. SISAK AND MICHAEL HILL

— Po­lice ar­rested 17 peo­ple Wed­nes­day af­ter a melee broke out dur­ing a flag-burn­ing in the streets out­side the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

It was the most tur­bu­lent protest since the four-day con­ven­tion be­gan on Mon­day. The chaos briefly pre­vented del­e­gates and mem­bers of the me­dia from get­ting into the Quicken Loans Arena for the evening’s pro­ceed­ings.

Two of­fi­cers were as­saulted and suf­fered mi­nor in­juries, po­lice said. One of­fi­cer was seen bleed­ing from an el­bow. Those ar­rested faced charges in­clud­ing in­cit­ing riot and vi­o­lence, and felo­nious as­sault on a po­lice of­fi­cer.

The melee brought to 22 the num­ber of peo­ple ar­rested dur­ing the con­ven­tion, far fewer than some law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties had feared.

“Right now, I think so far, so good,” po­lice Chief Calvin Wil­liams said Wed­nes­day night. “We’re still out there, we’re still vig­i­lant, to make sure we fin­ish this day and the last day to­mor­row on a pos­i­tive note.”

The protest took place just out­side an en­trance to the arena and near a row of pop­u­lar res­tau­rants where ca­ble news net­works had set up for the week.

Carl Dix of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Com­mu­nist Party said the group or­ga­nized the burn­ing of the Amer­i­can flag as a “po­lit­i­cal state­ment about the crimes of the Amer­i­can em­pire. There’s noth­ing great about Amer­ica.”

Mo­ments af­ter the flag was set on fire, of­fi­cers charged in to put it out with an ex­tin­guish­ing spray that some in the crowd thought was pep­per spray be­cause of sim­i­lar­i­ties in the de­sign of the can­is­ters and the eye ir­ri­ta­tion caused by the fire-sup­pres­sion sub­stance.

“You’re on fire! You’re on fire, stupid!” a Cleveland of­fi­cer shouted at a pro­tester while fir­ing the ex­tin­guish­ing spray.

“Burn that rag! Burn that rag!” sup­port­ers of the group yelled.

Push­ing and shov­ing broke out, and po­lice quickly had sev­eral group mem­bers on the ground in hand­cuffs. Some in the crowd jeered the of­fi­cers, yelling, “Blue lives mur­der!”

About 10 more min­utes passed be­fore the crowd was un­der con­trol.

Ear­lier in the day Wed­nes­day, blocks away from the arena, a rightwing re­li­gious group lifted a ban­ner read­ing “Je­sus is an­gry with you sin­ners,” while kiss­ing les­bians mocked their mes­sage, help­ing turn Cleveland’s Pub­lic Square into part-car­ni­val, part-de­bate floor.

The ex­pan­sive square was a freeflow­ing mix of ideas and be­liefs along with colour­ful char­ac­ters pound­ing on bon­gos and wail­ing on a sousa­phone.

The day’s demon­stra­tions started when a few dozen peo­ple hold­ing ban­ners printed with a red-brick de­sign formed a hu­man wall to mock Don­ald Trump’s plan to seal off the Mex­i­can bor­der.

“We want to wall off the hate of Trump,” said Tim Chavez, of Colum­bus.

A half-dozen Trump sup­port­ers de­fended the GOP nom­i­nee from at­tacks by im­mi­gra­tion ac­tivists.

Po­lice of­fi­cers used bi­cy­cles and their bod­ies to sep­a­rate those with op­pos­ing views.

JABIN BOTS­FORD, THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Of­fi­cers ar­rest pro­test­ers af­ter a demon­stra­tor set an Amer­i­can flag on fire at the main en­trance of the Quicken Loans Arena on the third day of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Cleveland on Wed­nes­day.

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