CLEVELAND––After two days of wandering widely in the blocks outside the Republican National Convention, the tensest moments that I’ve witnessed haven’t concerned Donald Trump, despite the intensity of dislike for him among his detractors and the harsh denunciations levied by various demonstrators here. The most tense moments I’ve witnessed have instead transpired in a space filled with an overwhelming police presence, protesters objecting to recent police killings of black men, and open-carry advocates dressed in surplus military clothing and body armor. Many here are hoping that the volatile mix doesn’t explode.
My colleague David Graham wrote about a large protest where all those factors were present. Earlier the same day, I witnessed something that brought home how the high emotion associated with protests against police sometimes risk more violence.
The protester, a middle-aged black man, was there in the Public Square with three young girls, presumably his daughters. He was upset about the killing of Tamir Rice, and stood on an elevated bench to voice his grievances to those milling around.
Here’s a small part of a much longer monologue:
As you can see, the speaker ended his remarks and picked up a plastic water gun. It was bright green, not easily mistaken for a real gun. Still, I cringed when I saw him pick it up. And I marveled that any father, let alone one speaking out against the killing of Tamir Rice, would give his children toy guns to take to a public square positively teeming with armed police officers from more than a dozen police agencies.