Donald Trump opponents are planning more protests outside the Republican National Convention as the event reaches it finale, keeping thousands of police officers on heightened alert for one more day.
The anti-Trump forces are planning an afternoon parade and an evening rally Thursday, the day Trump is scheduled to accept the Republican nomination for president.
The four-day convention has been a challenge for police, who have arrested 22 people while trying to keep a series of tumultuous protests from metastasizing into large-scale violence.
”We’re still out there, we’re still vigilant, to make sure we finish this day and the last day tomorrow on a positive note,” Police Chief Calvin Williams said at a media briefing Wednesday evening.
A flag-burning in the streets outside the convention on Wednesday sparked the most turbulent protest of the week and resulted in 17 arrests. Among those arrested was Gregory ”Joey” Johnson, whose torching of a flag at a GOP convention three decades ago led to the landmark 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said flag-burning is speech protected by the First Amendment.
Two officers were assaulted and suffered minor injuries, police said. One officer was seen bleeding from an elbow. Those arrested face charges including inciting violence and felonious assault on a police officer.
Williams said a protester whose pants caught fire got defensive when a police officer tried to put out the blaze. The man assaulted the officer, and ”things escalated from there,” Williams said.
The protest took place just outside an entrance to the Quicken Loans Arena and near a row of popular restaurants where cable news networks had set up for the week.
Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party said the group organized the burning of the American flag as a ”political statement about the crimes of the American empire. There’s nothing great about America.”
Moments after the flag was set on fire, officers charged in to put it out with an extinguishing spray that some in the crowd thought was pepper spray because of similarities in the design of the canisters and the eye irritation caused by the fire-suppression substance.
”You’re on fire! You’re on fire, stupid!” a Cleveland officer shouted at a protester while firing the extinguishing spray.
”Burn that rag! Burn that rag!” supporters of the group yelled.
Pushing and shoving broke out, and police quickly had several group members on the ground in handcuffs. Some in the crowd jeered the officers, yelling, ”Blue lives murder!”
About 10 more minutes passed before the crowd was under control.
Earlier in the day Wednesday, blocks away from the arena, a right-wing religious group lifted a banner reading ”Jesus is angry with you sinners,” while kissing lesbians mocked their message, helping turn Cleveland’s Public Square into part-carnival, part-debate floor.
The expansive square was a free-flowing mix of ideas and beliefs along with colorful characters pounding on bongos and wailing on a sousaphone.
The day’s demonstrations started when a few dozen people holding banners printed with a red-brick design formed a human wall to mock Donald Trump’s plan to seal off the Mexican border.
”We want to wall off the hate of Trump,” said Tim Chavez, of Columbus.