When the Republican National Committee picked Cleveland to host the 2016 Republican Convention back in July 2014, it was good news for the City by the Lake.
Back then, of course, no one knew how the Republican race would shape up, or precisely who would be competing for the nomination. So happy Cleveland city elders probably anticipated your normal Republican convention, where one candidate would long since have the nomination sewn up, polite delegates wearing silly hats would flood into local restaurants to buy fine meals and drinks, and the only drama would be identification of the vice presidential candidate and whether Clint Eastwood would give another speech to a chair. Delegates would come to town, toast the new nominee, spend some money and generate some tax revenues, and compliment Cleveland on its new look.
It hasn’t exactly turned out that way. With four Republicans still in contention and splitting up delegates, new twists and turns every day, “establishment” Republicans vowing to fight against a nomination of Donald Trump at all costs, and party leaders openly talking about a brokered convention, Cleveland could host the most eventful party convention in decades — perhaps since the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968. And the kind of police-protester clashes that made the Chicago convention so memorable might be replicated, too, if the Trumpeters feel that their candidate has been screwed out of the nomination and decide to take their angry, “anti-establishment” mindset a few steps further.
So I wasn’t surprised when I read that Cleveland is looking to spend $50 million on riot gear and other crowd control materials in preparation for the convention. According to news reports, the money will be spent on things like black, robotic-looking riot control suits complete with a robust and no doubt comfortable codpiece, 26-inch collapsible batons that police can use to crack protester heads if necessary in the name of public order, special riot-control suits for officers riding bicycles (riding bicycles? in a riot?), and miles of interlocking steel barriers, ranging from 3 1/2 feet high to 6 1/2 feet high, for crowd control purposes. Cleveland also plans to have a special force of 5,000 police officers — many recruited from neighboring communities — on hand, just in case things get feisty.
Whoo-hoo! It could be hot times in Cleveland come July. Let’s just hope the hat-wearing, button-sporting Republican delegates can still see and enjoy some of the city sights over the steel barriers and past those warmly welcoming black-suited riot police.