As the Republican National Convention gets underway Monday at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, protesters from Chicago are demonstrating for a variety of causes despite an unprecedented police presence.
Cleveland police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba, who is in charge of convention security, told NBC 5 that law enforcement is prepared for the convention.
“We’re not jittery,” Tomba said. “This is what we do."
Streets around the arena are heavily barricaded with metal fencing and visitors entering the arena’s perimeter are subject to searches from officers and bomb sniffing dogs.
Andy Thayer, a longtime anti-war activist from Chicago, downplayed the threat of violence at the convention.
“They try to frighten people away from exercising their First Amendment rights,” Thayer told NBC 5. “The police do it with their ridiculously expensive barricades and cops in all this gear.”
A total of 45 states have sent law enforcement to Cleveland for the convention. Officers walk in groups of six or eight as demonstrators leave the designated protest sites to make their way closer to the convention site.
Among the protesters is Father Jose Landaverde, who walked from Chicago to Cleveland for the convention. The trip, which took 27 days, found the Back of the Yards pastor stopping at local churches along the way. The pastor is pushing for immigration reform and hopes to appeal to Republican delegates.
“We have to be part of the movement,” Landaverde, who has been an activist for 20 years, told NBC 5. “I’ve been arrested like 20 times.”
“We need to build a hope for those without a hope,” Landaverde added.
Additionally, protesters demonstrating against presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump aren’t particularly supporting his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton.
“If you’re truly interested in social justice, you’ll be in the streets, particularly in Philadelphia, because there’s a lot of very angry Bernie Sanders supporters who are disgusted he’s trying to lead everyone back to the Democratic Party,” Thayer said.
Meanwhile, Trump supporters are also holding rallies outside the arena. This includes groups who think Trump will take on ISIS and support veterans. Trump is scheduled to accept the Republican nomination during a speech Thursday night on the convention floor.