Anti-Trump March Underway in Cleveland

CLEVELAND - Cleveland police on Wednesday made multiple arrests and reported that two officers had been injured after a protester attempted to light an American flag on fire outside the security barrier surrounding the Republican National Convention.

While police have issued an official Dispersal Order, protesters have effectively ignored those commands and have continued to congregate in an area of downtown Cleveland called the East 4th neighborhood near Prospect Avenue.

On Wednesday, police arrested 18 people - the biggest number of the convention so far - after they scuffled with police while trying to set fire to an American flag near the convention entrance.

So far, there have just been a couple of dozen arrests during the convention, but Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams says it's still too many. Officers riding bicycles and on horseback soon arrived to take command of the scene.

"You're on fire! You're on fire, stupid!" a Cleveland officer shouted as he wielded a can of extinguishing spray.

City officials have been hoping for a mostly trouble-free convention to help fix the reputation of the Cleveland police, who are operating under federal supervision after a U.S. Justice Department investigation found a pattern of excessive force and violations of people's civil rights. "The only people we've been able to interact with at all have been from the media, not the people who would actually engage with a protest".

Among those arrested was Gregory "Joey" Johnson, whose torching of a flag at a GOP convention three decades ago led to the landmark 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said flag-burning is protected by the First Amendment.

Police securing clearing outside convention venue.

Butler said the individuals were held in jail vans while police identified and photographed each one, spoke to the arresting officers and took a short narrative of what happened. The Cleveland police department tweeted that 17 people were arrested.

Since the convention began, there have been 23 arrests, with both police and protesters displaying restraint at rallies and marches, even those without permits.

A woman from the same group also was seen trying to burn a second flag.

The group protested Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's plan to build a wall between the US and Mexico. According to the political group - of which Johnson is member - Donald Trump's message of America first is "a fascist message of control over the people of the world, waging unending war to exploit people all over the planet".

Police were keeping people separated Thursday as debates broke out across the square, with participants including anarchists, anti-Muslim protesters, members of Bikers for Trump and people describing themselves as pro- and anti-capitalist.

One predicted the RNC in Cleveland would make the riotous 1968 Democratic National Convention look like "a fourth grade slap fight".

"There are people that their only reason for being here is disruption, disorder, chaos, hurting people and damaging property", Mr Williams said.

Officers on bicycles race ahead of marchers and form makeshift barricades between opposing ideological groups, preventing shouting matches from turning physical. He planned to join the city's ubiquitous bike patrols that have guided largely peaceful protests throughout the city.

  • Archie Newman