You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Protests Don’t Rock Cleveland During RNC But Tom Morello Does

CLEVELAND — Cleveland braced itself for large-scale protests and the potential for unrest in the streets as the Republican National Convention rolled in to town this week. In the end, calm prevailed in the city that loves to brag about how much it “rocks.”

The law enforcement presence throughout the area was enormous and impossible to miss. Hundreds of police, emergency technicians and crowd-control experts were enlisted from around the country to keep the peace while the GOP got down to business inside the Quicken Loans Arena in the downtown Playhouse Square district.

Police patrolled the city in large clusters — on foot, on bikes and on horseback — and in groups that appeared to be assembled with an eye toward reflecting ethnic and racial diversity. But for a few shouting matches, a brief sit-in on the street and the torching of an American flag, the sporadic protests around the arena were uneventful. In the designated protest zone of Public Square, the demonstrations were noisier but not violent.

There had been much speculation in the media about the potential for disturbances in Cleveland because of the controversial positions staked out by GOP nominee Donald Trump on immigration, and his more recent tough talk about being the “law and order” candidate. And tension was high, of course, because of the recent string of police-related shootings — both police shootings of African-American men and this month’s deadly sniper attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La.

As it turned out, there were exponentially more police and journalists prowling the streets than protestors. Most of those who came were from fringe groups including religious fundamentalists, anarchists and Communists. The female activists of Code Pink were visible but not in large numbers.

The absence of a sizable demonstration or march indicates a lack of a centralized organization capabilities for hot-button causes such as Black Lives Matter and the Occupy movements. Convention veterans noted that the protest efforts were more plentiful in the recent past, both for Republican and Democratic gatherings.

One stalwart activist who made his presence felt was Rage Against the Machine co-founder Tom Morello. He timed the public debut of his new outfit, Prophets of Rage, to coincide with the RNC gathering. Prophets will also be on the scene next week as the Democrats gather in Philadelphia.

Prophets is composed of Morello and fellow Rage members Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk, plus Public Enemy’s Chuck D and DJ Lord and B Real from Cypress Hill. The group also released its first recordings online this week.

Morello bills Prophets as “an elite task force of revolutionary musicians bent on overturning the apple cart of this insane election season.” Wearing a red “Make America Rage Again” baseball cap, Morello spoke to Variety prior to Prophets’ July 19 concert at Cleveland’s Agora Theater.

The veteran musician-activist cites fear as a possible reason for the low turnout of protestors in Cleveland. “People might be afraid of open-air gatherings,” he said. “That’s a guess.”

Morello also thinks the age of instant communication via social media works against the traditional means of confronting the powerful by getting feet on the street. He’s performed with one band or another at every presidential nominating convention since 2000.

“Maybe there’s a complacency that comes with thinking that you can change the world with a hashtag or an Instagram post,” Morello said. “In the case of police brutality, that might be true — the revolution may be Facebook-ed. In 1968 the only way to let the world know that you were opposed to the Democratic complicity in the Vietnam war was to be there in the streets. Now you’re always just one hashtag away from expressing your feelings.”

In fact, the diffusion of media makes it harder to galvanize attention to a single cause. “To me, that is a briar patch of complacency that both the Democratic and Republican parties are pretty content with,” he said. “There are no pitchforks and torches at the gate.”

The diverse young crowd that has turned out for Prophets of Rage shows to date includes a lot of young adults who were fired up during the primary season by Bernie Sanders’ campaign. He notes that the fact that both Trump and Sanders attracted supporters by pointing out the impact of globalization and trade agreements on blue-collar employment in the U.S. indicates that there’s a groundswell of real anger in the country that is ripe to be channeled into action.

To that end, Prophets of Rage will be taking part in Saturday’s “Rock Against the TPP” free concert event in Denver. That show aims to raise awareness of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, the latest target of opposition from the anti-globalization movement.

“One of the few issues where Trump, Sanders and I agree are that these trade agreements are horrendous,” he said. “That lane is wide open.”

More Biz

  • Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018

    Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018 Compensation Soar to $129.4 Million

    Discovery Inc. president-CEO David Zaslav is once again making headlines for an enormous compensation package. Zaslav’s 2018 compensation soared to $129.44 million in 2018, fueled by stock options and grants awarded as the longtime Discovery chief signed a new employment contract last July that takes him through 2023 at the cable programming group. Zaslav received [...]

  • Jonathan Lamy RIAA

    Jonathan Lamy Stepping Down From RIAA

    Jonathan Lamy, the Recording Industry Association of America’s longtime executive VP of communications and marketing, is stepping down from his post after 17 years, he announced today. As he put it in an email to Variety, “I started back in 2002, which means it’s been 17+ years, four different RIAA CEOs, three format changes and [...]

  • Fox Layoffs

    Disney-21st Fox Layoffs: TV Divisions Brace for Deep Cuts

    A second day of layoffs has begun on the Fox lot in the wake of Disney completing its acquisition of 21st Century Fox on Wednesday. Longtime 20th Century Fox Television Distribution president Mark Kaner is among the senior executives who were formally notified with severance details on Friday morning. 21st Century Fox’s international TV sales [...]

  • anthony pellicano

    Hollywood Fixer Anthony Pellicano Released From Federal Prison

    Anthony Pellicano, the Hollywood private eye whose wiretapping case riveted the industry a decade ago, was released from a federal prison on Friday, a prison spokeswoman confirmed. Pellicano was sentenced in 2008 to 15 years, following his conviction on 78 charges of wiretapping, racketeering, conspiracy and wire fraud. He had been in custody since 2003, [...]

  • This image taken from the Twitter

    HBO’s Reaction to Trump’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Campaign

    Everyone wants a piece of the “Game of Thrones” lemon cake. From Bud Light to Red Bull the world of Westeros is open to a lot of brand partnerships, unless you’re using that iconic typeface to push a political agenda. In November of 2018 President Donald Trump unveiled a “Thrones” inspired poster with the words [...]

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    'Leaving Neverland' Lawsuit Proves to Be a Judicial Hot Potato

    The Michael Jackson estate sued HBO last month for airing the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which accuses the late King of Pop of serial child sexual abuse. Since then, the case has had a difficult time finding a judge to handle it. Three federal judges have recused themselves in the last week, citing potential financial conflicts [...]

  • Members of the public mourn at

    Guy Oseary’s New Zealand Fundraiser Nears $150,000, Continues Raising Money

    In the wake of the horrific shootings at New Zealand mosques last week that killed some 49 people, Maverick chief Guy Oseary launched a GoFundMe campaign to “support those affected by this tragedy at this very difficult time,” and began it with an $18,000 donation. Boosted by donations from many celebrities — including Amy Schumer, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content