Republicans Are Coming To Cleveland, and Colleges, Students and Protesters Are Ready
Posted By Donna Fuscaldo on July 13, 2016 at 1:36 pm
With the nation still reeling from last week’s shooting violence, all eyes are turning to the upcoming Republican National Convention, which kicks off Monday in Cleveland. Tension was already high going into what is shaping up to be a historic RNC, particularly for college students who have been at the forefront of many of the issues polarizing the nation.
For Cleveland’s schools and student groups, preparation has been underway for weeks. For some, it means mobilizing to protest the policies of Donald Trump, while for others it’s all about supporting the Republican cause. Colleges are in the middle, aiming to offer students a learning experience and at the same time support students’ right to be heard. It’s a balancing act that Cleveland State University is hoping to pull off next week, when thousands of students descend on the city.
“What we are focusing on is the educational aspects of RNC, policy and the political and social aspects,” says William Dube, a spokesman for Cleveland State University. “We are hoping this is rely a great opportunity for our students and faculty and staff to participate in a major American political event and we’re doing a lot of different things to try to engage folks in the community.”
Some of the on-campus events include a Get Out the Vote Exhibition, a policy panel on poverty and national policy, a RNC cybersecurity forum and a TEDx forum focused on the future of democracy in America.
While education is the focus for Cleveland State University, Dube also is aware that students could protest at the RNC. Because Cleveland State University is within the event zone, an area designated by the Secret Service and Homeland Security near the convention where protesters are not allowed, officials don’t anticipate any trouble.
“The Cleveland State University Police Department continues to work with internal and external stakeholders in planning related to the 2016 National Republican Convention,” CSU Police Chief Gary Lewis says in an email. “A contingency of CSU PD personnel will be available and on-site for a response if needed.”
College Republican National Committee to offer educational experience
Cleveland State University isn’t the only group focused on providing an educational experience when the Republicans come to town next week. The College Republican National Committee will have a presence at the convention, but activism isn’t on its agenda. “We want to make them (students) feel like they are a part of the process and to encourage them to continue participating in conventions throughout their entire life,” says Catharine Cypher, national political director for the student group. “For someone who wants to be part of something larger, we will make sure there is a home for them.”
Ahead of the convention, the College Republican National Committee is running an ongoing itinerary of events for people ages 18 to 29 during the week, both inside and outside the convention. Similar to Cleveland State University, a lot of the activities are focused on panels on policies and issues young Republicans care about.
Protests, marches a staple of conventions
Political conventions—Republican or Democrat—have historically been met with protests, with some years much worse than others. While everyone is hoping calm will be the headline surrounding the upcoming RNC, students are mobilizing and intend to have a presence at the convention, whether welcome or not.
Take the National Students for a Democratic Society, which has a history of protesting against everything from wars to racism. It has long been planning to march with the Coalition To Stop Donald Trump, even if the city of Cleveland just gave them their permit this week. ”We see it as more of an imperative than before,” says Chrisley Carpio, a member of the group. “Our aim is to denounce and show the public we do not support the anti-immigration and xenophobia policies.”
Carpio pointed to Trump’s stance on immigration and the refugees in Syria as two policies the organization opposes. In addition to taking part in what is expected to be a large march Monday against Trump, the group will be on hand to provide flyers, chants and tips and support for protesting students.
Also joining forces is Youth Empowered in the Struggle, an immigrant rights student group. Gerardo Alvarado, a member of the group, says members will march at the RNC with the Coalition To Stop Trump. Alvarado says the group is bringing about 50 college students to voice their opinions at the rally. He says the group wants to keep the rally family friendly but will plan a safe location for its members if things get out of hand and to keep students out of the line of fire if confrontations break out with Trump supporters. “We just want everyone to respect us and understand,” Alvarado says. “One of our concerns is that Trump supporters will try to provoke us.”