The Republican National Convention is set to begin in Cleveland, Ohio, next Monday. In expectation of massive protests, police have already begun ramping up their presence. This has included a campaign of knocking on the doors of known activists in the area and subjecting them to questioning. Ahead of the convention, we have conducted a series of interviews with Cleveland residents about their thoughts and expectations for the coming RNC.

 

Malek Khawam
22 Years Old
Cleveland State Univ. Student Gov President/Community Activist

How do you feel about the Republican National Convention coming to Cleveland?

Initially, myself and everyone around me was very excited about the RNC coming to Cleveland. We saw it as an opportunity to have the national spotlight on Cleveland and change the “mistake on the lake” rhetoric. I think that excitement has diminished as the national conversation has shifted and forced us to have necessary but difficult conversations.  

How has this year’s political climate and the presidential campaign made you feel towards the Republican Party?

Some folks might not appreciate my candor or see it as cynicism, but this has been a long time coming. In my short lifetime I’ve witnessed racism unfold in a different way, an undercover, subtle and implicit racism. Until now we haven’t been able to have these conversations openly, because folks were not acknowledging that racism existed! Parts of the Republican Party lifted the veil on a very upset and bigoted American public.   

As a Clevelander, how has the city changed in preparation for the RNC?

Man, this is a conversation I feel like I’m having everyday. We have watched three or four hotels be erected overnight. Is it sustainable? I hope so. There has been a lot of focus on development in the downtown area, which is important to the growth of a thriving city. Although, I think that an area of greater importance is empowering our surrounding urban communities. Let me throw some alarming numbers at you: Central, a Cleveland neighborhood whose residents are almost exclusively African-American, has a population where which less than 3% of its residents have a college education. This is a neighborhood that is a stone’s throw away from not one but two college campuses! Family, everyday kids, can look up and see “CSU” illuminated atop the Rhodes tower, and as it stands, it’s not a feasible part of their reality. I’d like the presumptive nominee to talk about that.

In a city where 70% of the population consists of minorities, do you think Donald Trump’s rhetoric and the GOP’s platform belong in Cleveland?

It belongs in Cleveland, yeah. It belongs in Dallas, LA, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Ferguson, and Staten Island. We are not going to divert from the rhetoric because it’s not what we like to hear. We have to understand what is happening and address it accordingly to make positive change.

Do you intend on protesting during the RNC?

I don’t think so. Ab-Soul said TiVo the revolution when it’s televised. I will be attending Banned, a comedy show featuring “dangerously funny” Arab and Muslim American comedians that we hope will shift the conversation about Arabs and Muslim Americans in a positive way. We are trying to meet negativity with positivity. That’s power.

Are you doing anything to prepare for possible turmoil or unrest during the convention?

Nope. There has been a lot of talk about riots, but I can’t imagine, or I don’t want to imagine, that shit’s gonna pop off. We’re ready though.

Who will you be voting for in November? How do you feel about that choice?

I have been wavering between not voting and voting for the lesser of two evils, which some would comment is the worse of two evils. I need to have a conversation with myself and weigh my democratic requirements and my aversion to both candidates.