Police form human barrier amid GOP convention protests
© Jesse Byrnes

CLEVELAND — Scores of police officers encircled several groups of dozens of protesters just outside Quicken Loans Arena on the Republican National Convention’s first night.

At one point, approximately 100 law enforcement officials from several different out-of-area forces combined to form a human tunnel for those trying to enter the convention.

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Dozens of people snaked through the human police barricade to reach the convention security checkpoint as protesters chanted on either side.

More than a dozen Code Pink activists held signs in the protest area in front of six mounted police officers. The protests took place on the first of night of prime-time speeches on the theme “Make America Safe Again” inside Quicken Loans Arena.

At least a dozen members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, comprised one of the louder protest groups. They blasted the major political parties and candidates, including presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign MORE, in expletive-laden rants over a megaphone.

One attendee with the group criticized police-involved deaths of black people that have continued to roil debate across the country. He referred to a “a gang of pigs” involved in the death of Eric Garner on Staten Island in 2014. The man spoke just feet away from police.

Several bystanders, as well as a few people wearing shirts in support of Trump, engaged verbally with the communists, who were spotted later walking down a street further away from the convention zone.

Monday night's protests capped off a relatively peaceful day at the convention, which has seen a huge police presence of local and out-of-area departments, along with a number of federal law enforcement officials. Groups of four to five police officers, usually from the same state, patrolled different zones around the downtown corridor.

Several other attendees offered silent protests, including Hanif Phelps, 31, who was born in Cleveland. He held a white sign with black letters declaring “all lives matter” with an asterisk saying that statement excluded groups such as Muslims, Mexicans, refugees, black people and the unborn.

“When we say all lives matter — at some point in time these lives don't matter,” Phelps said.