The RNC came to Cleveland, so I went home to document. I was fearful, along with the majority of Cleveland and perhaps the nation, that this could turn disastrous and violent. With the history of violence at Trump rallies, and the ever more heated battle of this election cycle it seemed too easy for a spark to ignite in Cleveland. I am happy to report though that Cleveland still stands and the protests there were, on the whole, peaceful.
Experiencing a convention in my hometown was fascinating. I loved seeing people being able to voice their opinions and grievances, and it seemed that protesters hailed from all parts of the political spectrum. There were Trump supporters, gun supporters, women's rights groups, Muslim activists, anarchists, anti-Trump protesters, anti-police brutality protesters, pro-capitalist supports, even satirical protesters with signs like "God Hates Signs." There were people from all walks of life, and they all converged on Public Square.
Also with a hugely significant presence were the media, and law enforcement. Of all the people out in downtown Cleveland, about a third were protesters and the general public, and then easily a third were the media, and the last third was law enforcement.
Overall, while there was a lot of anger from all different sides, there seemed to be more calls for love, understanding and acceptance than anything else. While there were a lot of protests, there was also a lot of great human things going on. People playing ping pong on Public Square. A man making bubbles which turned adults into smiling wide-eyed children-at-heart. A band playing on the side of the street. A woman hugging police officers. A dance troupe which performed on the grass with huge bird puppets flying in the wind.
I came away from the week feeling surprisingly positive. I had seen our first amendment rights in action, and it had been peaceful. I felt proud of Cleveland and all the people who protested, especially for those who took a stand for love.
Last month the Republican National Convention was held in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. This election cycle has been so extreme, polarizing and heated that I didn't feel I could pass up the opportunity to go and document the convention. So home I went.
There, on the first day of the convention, I met another woman who had traveled back to her hometown of Cleveland, the wonderful Rose Hamid. Rose was one of the first to speak on the Speakers Platform in Public Square. I wish that everyone could listen to her and what she has to say. She is eloquent, articulate, calm and optimistic. She has a glowing smile, an easy laugh, and even while discussing difficult topics she sees the good in humanity. Rose is a Muslim woman who grew up in Cleveland and now lives in North Carolina. She is an advocate for creating personal connections across all parts of society; across party affiliations, across religions, across backgrounds. Her hope is that through these connections we can work together, that we must see the humanity in everyone.
In the two weeks that I spent documenting the Republican and Democratic national conventions, I felt that Rose had the best and most helpful approach and message. There is a lot of hate and anger right now. I am infinitely grateful that I live in a country that allows people to openly protest, and by exercising this right people are being truly and deeply American. Protests and public demonstrations are hugely important to bring issues to the forefront and help to bring about change. That change requires personal connections, and for people from all sides to come together to do a great deal of work to figure out a way forward. Only by being able to talk, debate, and listen will we be able to move forward.
Rose did just this. She spent both weeks seeking to speak one-on-one to people. To break the ice and present an offering of goodwill she handed out thousands of rose pens that read her message: "Salam, I come in Peace."
To read her take on the conventions please check out her blog here: http://www.mrsrosehamid.com/huffington-post-whats-a-muslim-to-do-after-attending-the-rnc-and-dnc/
You can also see a bit of her talking to reporters after her speech here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article90279662.html
kaitlin k walsh
Adventurer armed with a camera.