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STEINBERG: Convention protests — ‘I wish more Latinos were here’

Patricia Eguino, 27, stands near the Quicken Loans Arena, site of the Republican National Convention. She was born in New York City, lived in Bolivia and her parents are Hispanic. "I don't understand racism," she said. | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

CLEVELAND — Patricia Eguino stood near the gates of the Republican National Convention, holding a small white sign with green letters: “Latinos against Trump.”

“I’m completely against Donald Trump,” said the 27-year-old who was born in New York City but lived in Bolivia and whose parents are Hispanic. “I don’t understand racism.”

By Monday evening, she had been outside the Quicken Loans Arena, buffeted by passing delegates, for five hours.

“I wish more Latinos were here, more protestors,” she said. “I feel lonely.”

Christian Lewis, 18, of New York City, said he’s not voting because “if there’s no change being made there’s no reason to vote.” | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times<br>
Christian Lewis, 18, of New York City, said he’s not voting because “if there’s no change being made there’s no reason to vote.” | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

There were certainly protesters to be found at the convention. A “Coalition to Stop Trump” made up of students, Black Lives Matter activists, trade and anti-war protesters marched down East 9th Street to War Memorial Plaza on Monday afternoon, where they were confronted by Christian extremists, who displayed signs condemning gays and Muslims and hurled grotesque, sexually-explicit insults at the crowd. The police quickly moved in, using their bicycles to form a barrier between the groups.

But the protesters in the Stop Trump march numbered fewer than 400, not the “nearly 1,000” that organizer Mick Kelly claimed, nor the thousands he predicted earlier. Beside the march, protests tended to be scattered, with the media crowding around the more flamboyant individuals, like performance artist Vermin Supreme, wearing his boot hat and rambling about his pony-based economic system, or a man in a polar bear suit drawing attention to global warming. Far more visible was the massive police presence. Squads of officers from around the country were stationed on every corner, or so it seemed.

Eguino, a graduate student at Case Western Reserve University, wished more of her fellow students had come, but understood why they didn’t.

“They were scared,” she said. “Of violence.”

Eguino heard “a lot of racist comments.”

Jim Gilmore, from Chesterland, Ohio, says he’s a Republican who doesn’t like his party’s presumptive nominee. | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times
Jim Gilmore, from Chesterland, Ohio, says he’s a Republican who doesn’t like his party’s presumptive nominee. | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

“People told me, ‘Go back to Mexico,’ ‘Go back to Latinoland,'” she said.

Trump supporters also rallied, and at least one carried a semi-automatic rifle. But their fierce antagonism toward dissent was not in evidence, though in light of the “DON’T BELIEVE THE LIBERAL MEDIA!!” signs plastered on the street, perhaps take that with a grain of salt.

Jim Gilmore, an author and motivational speaker from Chesterland, Ohio, walked down Euclid Avenue wearing a t-shirt proclaiming “DUMP TRUMP” in big bold letters, but was not harassed by the Trump faithful. He said he wore the shirt more as a lark than a protest against Trump, though he described himself as “a Republican who doesn’t like him.”

“It feels like a ghost town,” he said. “It’s not a vibrant atmosphere.”

Police stand ready at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on Cleveland’s Public Square. | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times
Police stand ready at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on Cleveland’s Public Square. | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times
Protesters hit the streets in Cleveland. | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times
Protesters hit the streets in Cleveland. | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times