2016 Republican National Convention Opening Highlights

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The Republican National Convention was kicked off with an enormous party on Sunday evening, and thousands of guests were invited to “Rock the Night in CLE” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and East Ninth Street Pier in the city’s North Coast Harbor. The U.S. Secret Service was the event gatekeeper, and all had to pass through airport-like security in order to gain entrance. Many waited for more than an hour to make their way inside the party, and the line at one point stretched back for more than a block. Security checks safely passed, guests could sample food and beverages from 20 different trendy Cleveland restaurants and food trucks. Bands, including headliner Three Dog Night, played from three stages set up on the lawns, and the whole affair was capped by a fireworks display over Lake Erie. Late night talk show host Stephen Colbert was just one of many well-known figures at the event, but he definitely had the largest crowd following him around, clamoring for selfies.

Earlier in the evening, HB had the opportunity to go behind the scenes of the MSNBC program “Hardball with Chris Matthews” as it was broadcast live from a temporary soundstage on the patio of the Corner Alley on East 4th Street. HB alumna Colleen King ’00 is a senior producer on the show, and Fallon Gallagher ’14 is working there as an intern this summer. Neither are in Cleveland for the convention, though, as both are in New York City, where Colleen is part of the production team working in the control room for the network’s election and convention coverage anchored by Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Matthews. While we were onset with Hardball on Sunday evening, we watched as Chris interviewed Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Chief of Police Calvin Williams. Just about an hour later, we saw Chief Williams wearing shorts and a helmet and leading the bicycle patrol that was on hand at the Rock Hall party.

Security is tight around the convention, and Cleveland police units include officers on foot, in cars, on bicycles, motorcycles, and horseback. They’re also being aided by law enforcement officers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol and other units from around the country. We have seen officers lining the streets of Cleveland in uniforms from Indiana, Florida, California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. There have been some protests, but they have remained mostly peaceful, even as some have opted to exercise their right to openly carry rifles, which is allowed by Ohio law. Many have been gathering in the city’s newly redesigned Public Square and speaking on megaphones or through portable microphone systems on a variety of topics. Most of the orations we’ve heard pertain to religion.

Some HB alumnae have been involved in peaceful demonstrations organized to coincide with the convention. We connected yesterday with Lily Roberts ’08 and her sister, Faith ’12, who arrived at Public Square after a miles-long march through downtown and the near west side of Cleveland. The march was designed by Organize! Ohio, a community activist coalition that works to bring attention to progressive causes, including anti-poverty, voting rights, and environmental initiatives. The Robertses, along with Maggie Goddard ’07 also participated Sunday in a movement called “Circle the City with Love,” which was designed to set a peaceful and inclusive tone for the week. Thousands lined Hope Memorial Bridge, where they held hands and stood in silence for half an hour. Lily and Faith noted that the experience was even more powerful than they had anticipated, and it moved them both to tears. When the 30 minutes of silence ended, participants thanked the gathered law enforcement officers. “I must have hugged 40 policemen,” Lily said.

Outside the convention hall at Quicken Loans Arena, vendors have been selling an array of wares, running the gamut from the commemorative to the wacky. We’ve spotted everything from pins and t-shirts to Donald Trump bobbleheads and whoopie cushions and even election-themed breakfast cereal.

An estimated 15,000 members of the media from around the world have descended upon Cleveland to cover the convention, and we’ve inadvertently walked through at least 30 live television feeds. In addition to the MSNBC broadcast booth on East 4th Street, the Harry Buffalo a block away has been transformed into the “CNN Grill” for the week, the Washington Post has taken up residence in the new Butcher and The Brewer restaurant, and The Greenhouse Tavern is now Twitter’s domain. We’ve seen scores of well-known journalists and political analysts, and were able to snap pictures of Tom Brokaw, Ted Koppel, Chris Hayes, Wolf Blitzer, Chuck Todd, and more. We even had an Omarosa Manigault sighting. Yesterday, the former contestant on The Apprentice was appointed director of African-American outreach for the Trump campaign.

While it’s been fairly peaceful in the streets of Cleveland, there was briefly some contentiousness on the campaign floor yesterday, as anti-Trump delegates tried to delay the proceedings in the early afternoon. We were in the hall to witness the evening’s speaker lineup, which included actors Scott Baio and Antonio Sabato Jr., and former Real World stars who are now parents of eight children, Wisconsin congressman Sean Duffy and his wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy. Several other high-profile speakers, Republican activists, and elected officials took the podium last night as well, and the one who received the most raucous applause was Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City. Donald Trump made an unconventional entrance to the strains of Queen’s “We Are The Champions” before he brought out his wife, Melania, as Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl” played over the loudspeakers. Mrs. Trump’s speech was very well received, but as it has been extensively reported, it is now the subject of some controversy, as entire sections and themes appear to have been borrowed without attribution from Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Before catching the last Rapid to leave Tower City station for the night, we ended the evening with a taco at Barrio just outside the Q, where CBS News political analyst Bob Schieffer was catching up with some of his former interns.

HB will continue to offer dispatches from Cleveland during the convention, and we’d love to add more voices to the mix. Have a story or perspective to share? Please email director of marketing & communication Kathleen Osborne at kosborne@hb.edu. Hathaway Brown is a non-partisan organization, and as such does not endorse any particular political party or candidate. 


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