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.

 

Natalie Bartsche
22 Years Old
Sex Positive Activist/Filmmaker

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

The Republican National Convention is a very polarizing topic here in Cleveland and beyond. People in this city are mad as hell— mad about police brutality, corruption, budget cuts for schools and public transit, and a slew of other harmful policies. The RNC could not have come at a worse time. It’s coming in a time of heightened social unrest in Cleveland and the nation at large. The actions the city has taken to prepare for the RNC have me worried for how that week will play out. The federal government and local police forces have been following activists and questioning everybody, even those not involved. The only good I’ve seen come from the whole ordeal is the open dialogue it has created in the community and the facelift the downtown area has undergone. Other than that…Fuck the RNC.

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

This election has me exhausted and infuriated. The media circus is as wild as I’ve ever seen it. On one end of the spectrum we have a racist/sexist/bigoted/homophobic reality star. Running against him is a deceitful lizard lady. I cannot take any of it seriously and the fact that the Republican party and public allowed a candidate like Trump to make it this far is embarrassing.

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

There have been a number of changes made to the look and policy of Cleveland in the month, even years, leading up to the convention. The rapid transit system has been beautified by a series of murals along the main lines that were commissioned by the city. A lot of local artists have been receiving grants for public art pieces around the city, which is awesome. On the other hand, the fares have gone up and many lines and routes have been cut in what seems like a purposeful attempt to keep people from certain neighborhoods and out of other areas. The downtown area is transforming the most. Along with new housing and hotels, the public green space has drastically increased. Public Square renovations were unveiled the other day and showcase lots of grass, trees, and even a splash pad for kids. This specific renovation cost the city a whopping $50 million. Lastly, the equipment that the Cleveland Police own is changing. This is the first political convention to be held in a city that is under investigation by the federal government for excessive use of force by the police. Despite countless police shootings and investigations in recent years, the Cleveland Police will receive a shipment of new weapons, riot gear, and batons through federal funding. This is normal for cities hosting conventions. The Cleveland Police will obviously hold onto all of their new toys after the RNC has left and this is what worries us Clevelanders. There will be a lot of money coming into Cleveland during this time, but I think it will be fleeting. I don’t think much good will come of the RNC’s time here.

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?

Cleveland is a very mixed city and largely African American. I don’t think Cleveland will take well to Donald Trump’s presence, nor should they. His rhetoric is hateful and dangerous. He brings out the worst in America. It’s like racists are coming out of the woodwork. However, we’re a bit smarter and down to earth here. We see past the bullshit.

Do you intend on protesting during the RNC?

A lot of people plan on hitting the streets to protest the arrival of the Trump and the RNC. Personally, I’m going to keep my ass inside. I don’t like what the Republicans stand for, what they vote on, and they way they talk. I don’t support any of it. But I do not think it’s worth it for me to be on the streets. The feds and police have already made it clear that they will take any subversive action very seriously and shut it down as quick as possible. They will be using tactics to entrap protesters and arrest you on any petty charge they can get you for. As much as I’d like to let that black flag fly and scream at the top of my lungs about Trump’s leathery skin, the stakes are just too high.

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

The bookstore I work at has been closely working with the Cleveland chapter of the National Lawyers Guild to educate the public about how they should handle door knocks, phone calls, and visits by federal agents and police. There have been a few weeks of this so far and people are very shaken up. We are distributing literature on how to talk to the police without incriminating yourself, how to handle a house search and who to call in case you’ve been arrested. Myself and others are also doing “jail support” for those who need help after being arrested. This includes connecting them with a lawyer, raising bail, tracking them until release to show solidarity, and taking care of fellow community members.

 

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

This will be the first election I will not be voting in. It’s too far gone.