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Republican National Convention Delegates Come Ready to Celebrate Amid Tightened Security

Party on the eve of the RNC
Matt Richmond
/
WCPN

There was calm throughout the festivities at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame  and Great Lakes Science Center last night, where the RNC Host Committee held a welcoming party attended by thousands of invited guests. The purpose of the event was to show off the host city.

Music acts played on a stage set up in Voinovich Park. Attendees listened to music while the sun set over Lake Erie. Students from St. Edwards High School in Lakewood played garbage cans near the entrance to the party.

And local food trucks lined the walkway down to the water, from Mason's Creamery to The Beachcomber's blazing shrimp tacos and Cubano sandwiches. 

The delegates and visitors who arrived on buses and in hired cars came in through the Great Lake Science Center, one of the co-hosts of the event. The center’s CEO, Kirsten Ellenbogen, says that route was chosen because of security concerns. "All of these gates and things can come down. It makes it a very manageable space,” she says. 

Large security presence 
The party went off without a hitch. But on all of the edges, there was a large security presence. Coast guard boats patrolled the harbor. Checkpoints for vehicles and pedestrians were set up at the entrance to the event. The security detail stayed on the edges of the party but were all around. Officers could be seen on the tops of buildings surrounding Voinovich Park.

“I think the logistics were a little crazy. Our car was cleared by Secret Service and we were thirty minutes later pointed out of the security zone so we found street parking and we walked. But it seemed pretty confusing," said Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins.

Cummins, a Democrat, was at the party as a representative of the city. He says the convention has clearly been a boon for certain businesses. And it’ll be gone before anyone who’s not benefitting from it really notices. “You gotta take it for what it is, it’s a very transactional event in terms of what it brings relative to dollars,” he says.  

Delegates take in Cleveland
Coming to Cleveland has also been good for delegates like Sean Gartner. Gartner is a delegate from New Jersey, a state pledged to Donald Trump. He says the drive from New Jersey to Cleveland opened his eyes to why Trump’s message of bringing back industry to the U.S. was doing well in places like Ohio. “And I think those of us in the northeast corridor or the corridor of California and the West Coast forget for instance that there are folks and there is a country west of Philadelphia and east of Las Vegas.”

Gartner also pointed out the security that has been tightened in Cleveland in the last few days as the convention approached. And he says it’s more apparent that the last convention he attended, in 2004 in New York City.

“What’s happened in Baton Rouge and in Minneapolis, and then subsequently in Dallas and now again in Baton Rouge, coupled with what’s going on in Turkey and beyond in the Middle East, gives us a sense of why Cleveland has to some extent cordoned off, in my perception at least, the events so that delegates have a feeling of safety and security.” 

The party at Voinovich Park lasted until about 10:30 before a quick round of fireworks marked the end.