I am pretty thrilled to be leaving Cleveland. It was an amazing opportunity to witness a fascinating phenomenon and I enjoyed getting to know a new city. However, the heavy police presence and number of protesters had me on edge most of the time we spent near the convention center. Planned Parenthood was in attendance cheerfully passing out condoms, like the one pictured above, with anti-Trump slogans. Some of the other groups present were less friendly. Rows of police were loitering on street corners and ruffling through bushes and foliage to look for threats. The officers brought in from all over the country were prepared for a problem to break out at any moment.

One of the largest protests was held by Westboro Baptist Church. They were preaching hate, racism, sexism and general disgusting intolerance. I am curious what their opinion is on Mr. Trump. Based on their chants they were in Cleveland as counter protesters to the Black Lives Matter Movement not to support the nominee. If WBC has or does endorse Mr. Trump, based on some common values they seem to share, I would hope that would be enough to send many more moderate Republicans running in the opposite direction. WBC was appalling.

Another different kind of protest we saw was a man open carrying an assault rifle. He was surrounded by five officers and simply standing on the sidewalk holding his weapon. A reporter was asking him questions but no one passing by seemed to really notice him. I thought our proximity to the weapon was startling. The rest of my group did not even register this relatively quite scene as we passed because they were distracted by the louder protests and tables full of Trump memorabilia but I was anxious to hurry away.

My favorite event from the week was not a protest but it certainly made a statement. “Banned: Dangerously Funny Arab Americans and American Muslims” was a comedy event featuring Muslim and Arab comedians. It was hilarious and I loved that instead of wasting time trying to appeal to a group of Republicans that frankly, do not seem to be listening, they found a way to laugh at a troubling situation. Trump’s proposed ban on all Muslims, as I don’t even need to explain, is clearly ludicrous. This group was able to address the worries and embody the diverse experiences of their community in a fun and inclusive event. They were incredibly welcoming and our group really enjoyed the experience. This was one of the highlights of my time at the RNC. I have not had much exposure to Arab Americans or the Muslim faith so learning more about the culture was really rewarding. I think at the end of the day I was really challenged to grow at the RNC just maybe not in the way I was expecting.

Sophia Rossell

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