Cleveland square becomes part carnival, part debate floor


CLEVELAND (AP) — 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 Wednesday outside the Republican convention.

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 with a few dozen people holding banners printed with a red-brick design and forming 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.

A half-dozen Trump supporters defended the GOP nominee from attacks by immigration activists.

Police officers used bicycles and their bodies to separate those with opposing views.

There were no signs of trouble through mid-afternoon, unlike Tuesday, when skirmishes broke out among demonstrators and police used their bicycles to keep them apart.

But a threatened flag-burning later Wednesday had potential to fuel the tensions outside the Republican National Convention.

Jesse Gonzalez, of Lakewood, a Cleveland suburb, carried a rifle on Public Square while wearing a camouflage-style “Make America Great Again” hat.

“I’m out here to illustrate that not all gun owners, if any or very few, are irresponsible or uneducated,” he said.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said that he spent three hours Tuesday evening riding with bicycle officers on patrol and that he waded into one confrontation because he’s “still a police officer.”

Williams said he plans to show up wherever there are “issues” during the convention.

Overall, five people have been arrested since the four-day convention started on Monday, police spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia said late Tuesday.

That includes one person accused of trying to steal a state trooper’s gas mask and three people charged with climbing flagpoles at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and hanging an anti-Trump banner.

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Associated Press writer Mark Gillispie contributed to this report.