American Culture

An open letter to left-wing RNC protesters

Cleveland is not your enemy.


50 years ago in Hough

Dear Left-Wing Protesters,

Please don’t destroy the city of Cleveland or its people in which you could find so much sympathy, support, and common ground. Whatever your cause, someone here will hear you out. Not everyone all the time. But you’ll find people who will listen.

Here’s something to start with: Monday, July 18, 2016–the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland–is the 50th anniversary of the Hough Riots. The Hough Riots were a violent clash between police, the National Guard and residents of the Hough neighborhood on the East Side of Cleveland.

Hough had been home to people from Eastern Europe and Appalachia during the first half of the twentieth century. After World War II, African-Americans moved into the neighborhood in increasing numbers, encouraged and steered by avaricious real estate agents. The city of Cleveland conspired to render the neighborhood increasingly desperate by instigating a policy to not enforce building codes in Hough.

Three months before the Riots, US Civil Rights Commission held hearings in Cleveland on conditions in Hough. From abysmal housing conditions to poor relations with the police, the situation sounds remarkably familiar. A report was issued with numerous recommendations to improve the situation. Too little, too late.

The Hough Riots changed Cleveland. There are still empty blocks that were never rebuilt. Businesses left. Population left–both White and Black–who could afford to do so. The speed of decline of the city increased.

If you and your fellow protesters fall into any of the groups below, take a minute to see why Cleveland should not be destroyed:

African-American and Black Lives Matter

The city survived the Hough Riots and is coming back. But it has never fully recovered. The East Side has poorer schools, fewer job opportunities, and more food deserts than the rest of the city.

The killing of Tamir Rice by the Cleveland police resulted in the Consent Decree and various reform efforts that are currently being implemented. The RNC is a diversion from the direction the city has been moving in. In addition, hundreds of law enforcement officers have been brought in to supplement the Cleveland Police Department. No one is quite sure how all of these organizations will work together during the RNC.

The Convention of the Oppressed, held before the RNC, will be based at the Second Ebenezer Baptist Church on E. 71st. Street–just south of Hough Avenue, before the RNC begins. There are various plans to gather and march. The New Black Panther Party, who has advocated open carry at the RNC, will be participants.

Although the Special Event Zone in downtown Cleveland will not be fully implemented until Sunday, July 17, security measures should be in place to discourage widespread protests and confrontations. That will tend to contain protesters on the East side in those neighborhoods on the East Side that have previously been devastated.

Those are the last neighborhoods in Cleveland that need to be further degraded.

Economic Justice

A number of unions, pro-labor, and economic justice organizations will also be protesting during the RNC. Destroying places of employment will not bring people to your cause.

Some people in the city of Cleveland are backing a $15 an hour minimum wage. There’s quite a bit of dissension over that. Many say that such a move in just the city–as opposed to greater Cuyahoga County–will result in jobs being poached to other cities. Jobs desperately needed within the city of Cleveland.

Of course the State of Ohio, in its ongoing quest to erode home rule, has decreed that only the state can raise the minimum wage (just like only the state can set civil servant residency requirements, gun laws, and gas drilling regulations). But the capital of Ohio is not Cleveland, so addressing those issues here will not impact Columbus.

In short, Cleveland is not your enemy.

Last week I attended a presentation on the Hough Riots at the Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern on the East Side. The place was standing room only. Packed. Everyone there wanted to understand what happened.

As I was leaving, I saw an African-American man in his 20s with dreads and a baseball cap across the street. He was angry and yelling about injustice. Whites and slavery. The police and the killing of Black men. He happened to catch my eye.

So I stopped. I made eye contact and listened.

Hey, I was across the street in traffic.

After a minute he walked on and want into the bus stop and sat down.

A younger African-American man was behind me and had witnessed the encounter. He smiled at me and said, “Whatever.”

I said, “I thought the least I could do was listen.”

Young man and I chatted about that for a minute and parted.

It’s a starting point

We’ll see where it goes after the RNC.




1 reply »

  1. I’m with you – I sincerely hope that Cleveland doesn’t take damage here. It would be a tragedy for all the reasons you mention, and maybe more.

    That said, I’d be okay if a battle royal tore up everything inside QLA. I just want the mayhem limited to the guilty. Does that make me a bad person?

    Never mind. I think we already know the answer to that one.