Photo Essay: Cleveland Protests

(Photo: Kyle Johnston)

A protester on Monday night in Cleveland's Public Square demonstrates against police brutality holding toy guns. The name on his shirt, Tamir Rice, is that of the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was shot by police by Cleveland police in November 2014 while playing with a toy gun in a park.

The Republican National Convention wrapped up on a calm note Thursday night, despite predictions that one of the most controversial party gatherings in decades would draw enormous crowds and potentially violent clashes between opposing groups.

Cleveland had braced for the worst, bringing in thousands of law enforcement officers from across the country and using part of a $50 million federal grant to purchase riot gear, handcuffs, and other equipment. Along the way, the city was also hit with a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, which charged that the designated parade route was too small and infringed on protesters' right to free expression.

In the end, Cleveland's newly-refurbished Public Square, located downtown just a few blocks from the convention site, became a magnet for protesters, onlookers and police over the four days of the convention. Demonstrators took turns reserving time at a "speaker's platform" erected in the square, and protesters with homemade signs mingled with curious onlookers and downtown employees on lunch breaks. Among them were scores of reporters and photographers, and, of course, police officers, who often formed long double-lines, backs to one other, and who moved in to stand near provocative groups or separate them from the crowd.

But the city’s relief, the “worst” never happened, perhaps because of the overwhelming law enforcement presence on every block. In fact, many downtown businesses reported disappointing economic returns from all the crowds, fueling speculation that all the advance warnings had scared off both residents and protesters. 

Below are images from the past week's protests and crowds around the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention was held. Photos by Kyle Johnston, a Cleveland Heights-based photographer and video producer.

(Photo: Kyle Johnston)

Officers in town for the Republican convention look on Cleveland's Public Square from the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Monday evening.

(Photo: Kyle Johnston)

A religious protester is confronted by a Donald Trump supporter in Cleveland on Tuesday.

(Photo: Kyle Johnston)

An activist who calls himself Vermin Supreme said he was also running for president. On his head is a rubber boot.

(Photo: Kyle Johnston)

Protesters, onlookers, journalists, and photographers mingle in Cleveland's Public Square on Tuesday, July 19.

(Photo: Kyle Johnston)

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church arrived on Tuesday afternoon, resulting in police quickly forming a barricade between them and the rest of the square.

(Photo: Kyle Johnston)

Ohio is an open-carry state, meaning those going to the protests could carry guns in full view, as the gentlemen on the right was doing on Tuesday. Speaking to him is a protester whose shirt said "Love Is the Question" on the back.

(Photo: Kyle Johnston)

A theater troupe dressed as clowns, using the hashtag #NotFunny to protest Trump's nomination, perform in Cleveland's Public Square on Monday, July 18.

(Photo: Kyle Johnston)

Three protesters stand near the Speaker's Platform in Cleveland's Public Square on Monday, July 18.

(Photo: Kyle Johnston)

Security personnel pass by in an SUV in Cleveland on Tuesday evening.

(Photo: Kyle Johnston)

Police on horses look over a crowd gathered at the end of East 4th Street in Cleveland, near the entrance to the perimeter around the Quicken Loans Arena, where the Republican convention was being held.

(Photo: Amanda Teuscher)

Heated discussions take place in Cleveland's Public Square on Tuesday night as police look on.

(Photo: Amanda Teuscher)

Protesters objecting to the millions of dollars spent for the convention while other parts of Cleveland remain underfunded stood in Public Square in the early evening of Thursday, July 21.

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