Last summer in Cleveland was filled with Republicans electing the future President of the United States. NEOCH was busy organizing, protesting and keeping homeless people safe. We posted a few images from last year on the front of our website and those will be available on our photo galleries page. We reflected on the RNC last July and you can read that by clicking on the blue text.
We started out joining a lawsuit with the ACLU and both pro Trump and anti Trump protestors against the City of Cleveland. Our interest was the overly broad enforcement "event area," and whether all these out of town police could disrupt homeless encampments. This would have allowed law enforcement to search, sieze and bar movement from many areas where homeless people sleep especially across the river. We won in court and the City had to reduce the event zone. NEOCH staff provided a one page sheet on how to assist homeless people to the two thousand police who came to town.
We worked to keep homeless people safe with transportation from the East Side to the drop in centers on the West Side. NEOCH staff did some voter registration activities on the West Side of Cleveland so they did not have to cross the river during the RNC. We had to figure out where homeless people could go during the day since the Cosgrove Center drop in Center was closed for the week. There was much media about homelessness and the convention both nationally and locally.
NEOCH staff were involved in the protest on the Monday of the RNC that Organize Ohio put together. We made signs to End Poverty. We marched. We listened to speeches asking for Republican leaders to think about the affordable housing crisis, health care for all, increasing income, and stabilizing disability assistance in America. It was a hot day and a long walk from Lutheran Metro Ministry down to just outside of the "event zone" at Chester Commons. There were some fantastic speeches like the mom worried about the incendiary language during the campaign about immigrants. There were environmentalists who were concerned about global warming. There were Black Lives Matter activists worried about unaccountable police. And there were activists asking for a $15 minimum wage and universal access to healthcare in the United States.
Overall, the best of Cleveland was shown to the United States last summer. We could protest peacefully. There were very few arrests during the week. The Police Chief was out among the people talking, keeping the peace and wearing shorts and not riot gear. Homeless people were not harrassed and could stand with the other pedestrians on the Lorain Carnegie Bridge in peaceful prayer. There were no arrests or sweeps of homeless people as happened in previous high profile events in the United States. It was a huge disruption for the one week and it was difficult getting across the river, but it was also quite a spectcle to watch. I saw people walking downtown that I have never seen before in our fair city. There were suburban folks from Nebraska who had never seen so much concrete. There were cowboy hat and boot wearing young men from Montana who had not seen this many minority citizens in the same location.
Very few of the 20,000 Republican delegates and guests had thought much about homelessness and we did all that we could to get homeless people into the news last summer. I was skeptical about bringing a party that has a history of hostility toward those living in poverty to a majority Democratic city, but it worked. There were precincts in the City of Cleveland in 2012 that not one person in that precinct voted for the Republican candidate for President. I was worried that there would be hostility between the two groups, but Clevelanders were extremely welcoming and hospitable to people who largely see the world differently from most residents of Cleveland. The Republican Convention of 2016 benefitted the City of Cleveland, and I hope that other cities will look at our ability to host a secure event without harming the residents (including homeless people) in the process and use that as an example.
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