By Christina Cliff
On PoliticsFitzU’s first day at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, students (and the faculty) were treated to a variety of events and individuals, yet I spent much of my day at a nearby park, talking to various participants and spectators at a collective protest. There were many different groups present, but all seemed to have a similar message, calling for an end to discriminatory policies, behaviors, and language.
I spent quite a bit of time with Robert McCaw, the government affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), talking with him about why he was in Cleveland and at the protest site. McCaw stated that the Republican Party “is becoming the center of Islamophobia.” His goal of attending the Convention was to have the opportunity to talk to state delegates, and call on them to raise awareness of the dangers of Islamophobia, particularly in this election.
To encourage people to think about this growing fear, CAIR and McCaw were passing out “Islamophobin” – a satirical chewing gum that looks like a medication packet and “treats: blind intolerance, unthinking bigotry, irrational fear of Muslims, U.S. Presidential Election Year Scapegoating.”
McCaw argues that, “Muslims are your neighbors, your doctors, your students, your small business owners, and they have the same aspirations and are looking for the same support as all other people.” McCaw also pointed out that Muslims are an important demographic during an election cycle, particularly in swing states.
This sentiment–that the systematic exclusion of groups of people is dangerous to the parties, to individuals, and to U.S. society–was the overriding message of the groups protesting today.
There were folks that were challenging anti-immigration rhetoric, members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Students for a Democratic Society. All of the protestors were of one mind – that divisive speech and action are a primary problem that the U.S. needs to address, and that the Republican Party and their presumptive nominee needed to recognize. For many of the protestors, Donald Trump was emblematic of the problems both in society and in the Republican Party.
The protest was non-violent, and when the protestors took to the street for a march, they were protected and escorted by approximately 50 bicycle mounted officers. These officers were part of the 5,000 law enforcement officials working the Convention security. They peacefully and dutifully rode alongside protestors carrying signs that read “Disarm the Police.”
The Convention has barely begun, but in the streets PoliticsFitzU is already seeing the inconsistencies and dichotomies that are both part of society and reflected in this contentious presidential election.
Dr. Christina Cliff is a visiting assistant professor of political science at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, NH. Her work has been concerned primarily with terrorism and genocide and what underlying conditions contribute to the spread of violence. Cliff is originally from Hunstville, Alabama and spent many years in Idaho. This is her first Convention visit.
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