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.