Cleveland gearing up for RNC

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CLEVELAND — They finally hosted a championship parade after decades of sports futility, and now they’re a week away from hosting another grand spectacle:  the Republican National Convention.

The crush of more than 1.3 million people at last month’s parade in honor of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers resulted in not a single arrest. But that event did not feature Donald J. Trump, the brash and brazen candidate whose rhetoric often inspires protest.  Nor did it subject Clevelanders to the extraordinary security detail of a presidential nominee.

“It’s going to be completely walled-off,” said Jerome S., one of 90 working members of the city’s Downtown Cleveland Ambassador’s Clean and Safe program, about the 25-square block ultra-secure perimeter ringing Quicken Loans Arena where will only allow the credentialed to enter.

Jerome S., who agreed to talk but declined to share his last name, said even safety ambassadors like him, who patrol the city’s streets each day and do everything from directing tourists to their destination to alerting city officials whenever a trash can is overfilled, are barred from breaching the perimeter:

On Monday afternoon crews could be seen setting up barricades and outside media stages, while Clevelanders carried about their daily business. Massive banners touting the convention and welcoming were draped across city buildings. On various blocks, clusters of security personnel could be seen taking instructions from their superiors and acquainting themselves with the neighborhood.

It won’t be so quiet next Monday, when the convention kicks into gear. Approximately 2,472 delegates, 15,000 media members and a slew of other party officials, entertainment personalities and elected officials are set to arrive by Sunday. Delegates staying at area hotels, however, can expect to be bused-in through the security barricade.

There will be 500 Cleveland police officers working during the week-long event — including an extra 2,700 members of the law enforcement community hailing from cities and towns across the country.

There will also be more than three miles of connected steel barriers restricting traffic from entering various streets around what is known as the “event zone.”

The list of items barred from the event zone is lengthy. According to a copy of the city’s permit regulations guide, items include:

“Any air rifle, air pistol, paintball gun, blasting caps, switchblade or automatic knife, knife having a blade two and one-half (2-1/2) inches in length or longer, cestus, billy, blackjack, sword, saber, hatchet, axe, slingshot, BB gun, pellet gun, wrist shot, blackjack, metal knuckles, nunchucks, mace, iron buckle, axe handle, shovel, or other instrumentality used to cause property or personal damage.”

Other seemingly innocuous items on the ban list include “umbrellas with metal tips,” aerosol cans, bicycle locking devices, large backpacks and bags and even personal gas masks.

The city is not taking any chances with potential liability stemming from the potential crush of thousands of protesters, either. In March the city announced it was looking to spend $1.5 million for $10 million “protest insurance” coverage — last month, however, city officials elected to purchase $50 million in coverage for $9.5 million.

In comparison, the city of Tampa spent $1.7 million on a similar insurance policy when it hosted the RNC in 2012.