Unconventional #26: Behind the scenes of the huge anti-Trump protest planned for Cleveland (and more!)

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Bryan Hambley, left, is removed from the crowd as Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Cleveland on March 12. (Photo: Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)
Bryan Hambley, left, is removed from the crowd as Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Cleveland on March 12. (Photo: Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)

Unconventional is Yahoo News’ complete guide to what could be the craziest presidential conventions in decades. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Inside the group spearheading Cleveland’s biggest anti-Trump protest

When Donald Trump came to Cleveland’s I-X Center on March 12, Bryan Hambley was there. But Hambley, a 31-year-old chief resident in internal medicine at Cleveland’s University Hospitals, didn’t attend the rally to support Trump. He went to protest. Wearing a shirt that read “Muslim Doctors Save Lives in Cleveland,” Hambley stood up in the middle of Trump’s speech, flashed the peace sign and started yelling, “Stop the bigotry!” He was quickly escorted out by security.

At first, Hambley thought his career as a protester would end there. But then Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, which meant that he would be accepting the nomination at the GOP convention in Cleveland. So, Hambley and an ethnically diverse group of fellow physicians and nurses — none of whom were particularly political before Trump and all of whom were appalled by the Manhattan mogul’s proposed Muslim travel ban, among other things — decided they had to do more.

Now the organization they have founded, Stand Together Against Trump (STAT), is set to spearhead the convention’s largest anti-Trump march and rally, with as many as 10,000 people expected to attend. Unconventional spoke to Hambley about how STAT came together — and what he and his fellow protesters are planning for the Republican National Convention.

Unconventional: What is Stand Together Against Trump?
Hambley: It’s an independent-expenditure political action committee that we founded in mid-May with the goal of organizing and taking part in protests specifically against Donald Trump during the Republican National Convention. We’re not protesting Republicans in general, or conservative ideas. We’re protesting Trump.

How are you planning to protest?
We’ll be taking part in events all week long, but mainly we’ll be organizing a rally and a march on Thursday [July 21] afternoon and evening. That’s when Trump will accept the nomination and deliver his speech.

Next week and the week after, we’ll be announcing several different partnerships with national and statewide organizations. We’ve found ourselves, both because of our location and because we started organizing so early, in the middle of a lot of different discussions about protests at the RNC.

We’re hoping that 5,000 to 10,000 people will show up on Thursday. This is the most divisive candidate we’ve seen. I think there will be a huge turnout.

And who is “we”?
We started as a group of physicians, nurses and professionals in the Cleveland area. Frankly, none of us have ever protested a convention before. Rarely have any of us been involved in a protest.

My wife and I both volunteer for campaigns every now and then. But not, like, every cycle. This is completely new territory for us. Stand Together Against Trump would not have existed if the Republicans had nominated someone else. We would not have protested any other Republican candidate.

So, why protest Trump in particular?
A lot of nurses and physicians in this country are of Muslim background, of minority background, of immigrant background. Anyone who’s ever lived in a major city knows that there are Muslim doctors saving lives every day.

But we think it’s a point that’s lost on Trump when he speaks of immigrants and Muslims as a monolithic bloc of … whatever he wants them to be on that given day. And so we decided to get together to voice our opposition to someone who has used racism, sexism and overt discrimination not just in an accidental way but as a core message of his campaign.

We want to make sure there is a voice in Cleveland that says, “America is better than this. We are — as Republicans, independents and Democrats — above the level of race-baiting. We are above the wedge politics that Trump represents.”

How did STAT get started?
Three of us were chief residents at Case Western University last year, and we starting asking ourselves, “How is this happening? What does it mean for us as professionals?”

Chief residents are often involved in administration. We work with some of the youngest physician trainees — many of whom were on visas from Muslim countries and were doing incredible work right here in Cleveland. Not just providing care, which they obviously do. But some of the best researchers in our program have Muslim backgrounds as well.

So, during those initial conversations, we decided that at times when Trump was in Cleveland — when he was near us — we felt compelled to do something more than passively protest. We felt like it was our moral responsibility to organize an active response to him.

You first protested when Trump came to Cleveland in March, before the Ohio primary.
Right. The group of physicians and nurses that I’m a part of, we had maybe 15 or 20 people. We made up shirts that said “Muslim Doctors Save Lives in Cleveland.” A couple of us felt compelled to go inside and interrupt the speech. The rest were protesting outside.

Who went inside?
Me and one of the other physicians in our group. We started shouting, “Stop the bigotry!” But once you shout anything, you’re kind of drowned out. It was us versus 10,000 Trump supporters. The chanting started and we were escorted out.

But then a funny thing happened: one of the security guards who told us that his father had recently had a heart attack — and his heart surgeon was a Muslim.

Initially, we thought, we protest for that one day and be done with it. But then, in the weeks after the Ohio primary, we were shocked to see that Trump was actually going to become the Republican nominee — that he was going to begin his general election campaign in our city. So we started organizing for the convention.

Where are you in the organizing process?
We need open spaces. We need large areas to be open downtown for free speech and large gatherings. That’s critical.

Right now, the only areas Cleveland has identified for marches and protests aren’t particularly close to the arena. And to add insult to injury, they’ve said the only times we can march are between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. A lot of our people will be working in the hospital or the clinic until 5 or 6 p.m.

This doesn’t protect free speech, and the city is actually being sued by the ACLU because of it. We’ve proposed two different parade routes for that Thursday [July 21] and two different locations for the rally. We want to sit down with the city, have them hear our concerns, listen to their concerns and then find a middle ground that protects free speech.

Some people have said that with anti-Trump passions running high, the protests in Cleveland could become chaotic.
I think we can avoid that. I passionately believe this. With planning from our side and from the city’s side, it doesn’t have to be a chaotic, violent time. What we’re looking for, and what every group that’s called me over the last four weeks is looking for, is a way to peacefully promote an anti-racist, anti-sexist message. I haven’t had a single person try to edge us toward anything else.

We are not a group that wants chaos. We have no interest in approaching Trump supporters and having yelling matches, like you sometimes see on TV. We’re trying to do something completely different. But there needs to be room for large-scale demonstrations downtown throughout the convention. This will help make sure the protests are peaceful — just finding a defined space where people who want this kind of action can congregate.

Ultimately, what’s your vision for the STAT protest?
People will speak. There will be music. But it’ll also just be people getting together. This is a monumental event in our political history. We’re hoping to provide a place for people who don’t believe in Trump’s message to go and see good things in each other, rather than all the hate he is going to be spewing from the podium. That might sound overly idealistic. But that’s really what we want.

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2. Why Bernie Sanders didn’t concede to Hillary Clinton in his Thursday video address


By Liz Goodwin

Sen. Bernie Sanders told his supporters in a video address Thursday night that he would work with Hillary Clinton to “transform” the Democratic Party and to pass the “most progressive platform in its history” at the Democratic convention in July.

Sanders did not concede nor endorse Clinton, as many Democrats have urged him to do now that she is the presumptive presidential nominee. But the senator from Vermont made no mention of trying to win the nomination and clearly shifted his message to changing the party at the Democratic National Convention in July and defeating Trump.

(Read the full version of this story here.)

“I also look forward to working with Secretary Clinton to transform the Democratic Party so that it becomes a party of working people and young people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors: a party that has the courage to take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel industry and the other powerful special interests that dominate our political and economic life,” Sanders said.

Sanders and Clinton met for nearly two hours Tuesday night to discuss the end of the Democratic primary. By this point in 2008, Clinton had already thrown her support behind her rival, Barack Obama. But Sanders has vowed to his supporters to fight until the convention and appears to be staying that course.

Sanders wants to win key concessions at the convention before endorsing Clinton and formally suspending his campaign. He did not, however, bring up some of his earlier demands in Thursday’s speech, such as making all Democratic primaries open to independents and replacing Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as head of the Democratic National Committee. Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said on MSNBC earlier Thursday that it was a “positive step” that Clinton had installed her own pick to run the day-to-day operations of the DNC, a move that shifts responsibility for the general election campaign away from Wasserman Schultz and allows the party and the Clinton campaign to begin their coordinated efforts for the fall.

By not conceding, Sanders may be counting on buying some time to continue to negotiate for what he wants. “I think he’s calculating that once he concedes, his influence proceeds to drop precipitously,” said Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury College in Vermont. “That doesn’t mean he thinks he’s going to win the nomination.”

Clinton has been careful not to say Sanders should concede, but many of her surrogates and even some Sanders supporters have said it’s time for him to back her and focus the party on defeating Trump. Sanders, however, made clear in his speech that he will begin to focus on Trump, even though he is not formally conceding. “The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly,” Sanders said. “And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.”

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3. Cleveland says bye-bye to LeBron and hello to Trump as convention prep finally begins

The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors Thursday in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena. (Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)
The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors Thursday in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. (Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)

When LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers won Game 6 of the NBA Finals at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday night, many folks in the Forest City were quick to celebrate.

Sure, the victory, which sent the series to a decisive Game 7, to be played Sunday on the Golden State Warriors’ home turf in California, was welcome news for Cavs fans hoping to capture their first-ever championship title.

But the end of the Cleveland leg of the series may have been an even bigger relief for the RNC, the Trump campaign and everyone else responsible for putting on a professional, problem-free Republican National Convention from July 18 to 21 — because they couldn’t really start transforming the arena into a red, white and blue advertisement for the GOP and its nominee until LeBron vacated the premises.

“We will have pre-setting in place so when the basketball playoffs are over, BOOM, we can start,” convention producer Phil Alongi recently told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“We can literally be in the arena within hours of the last game,” Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, told the New York Times. “Our trucks will be pulling in as the ESPN trucks are pulling out.”

The RNC has a lot of ground to make up. Usually, convention planners have six to eight weeks to prepare; this year, they only have four. The Cleveland host committee still hasn’t hit its $64 million fundraising goal, and donations have slowed as various corporate sponsors and individuals, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola and billionaire New York hedge-fund manager Paul Singer, have either pulled out or scaled back their giving in response to Trump’s impending coronation. Concerns have been raised about security, with several cities declining to send additional law enforcement officers and the head of Cleveland’s largest police union criticizing local efforts to train and equip cops.

Alongi, the convention producer, isn’t worried. According to the Plain Dealer, the changeover will involve “setting up lights, building a stage, temporarily removing seats and converting luxury suites into broadcast studios.” And Alongi doesn’t expect any serious curveballs from Trump, who has promised to inject some “showbiz” into the proceedings after calling the 2012 convention — which Alongi also produced — “incredibly boring.”

“Mr. Trump says a lot of things,” Alongi said. “Whether it becomes a reality… I guess you’ll see it when I do.”

Team Trump seems undaunted as well. About a dozen staffers arrived late last month in Cleveland, where they are currently hammering out the convention program. According to the New York Times:

The lineup of speakers is still very fluid. During meetings last week, staff members for the Trump campaign and the national committee sat down to draft a wish list of celebrities and prominent political figures they would contact. They broke it down into ones Mr. Trump should call himself (Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, for example) and those who would be left for aides to handle (Kenny Rogers, Jack Nicklaus and Diamond and Silk, the African-American sisters who gained notice after making YouTube videos praising Mr. Trump), convention planners said.

So far, Trump — a notorious micromanager — has intervened only once. “After he reviewed the designs for the stage,” the Times reported, “Mr. Trump sent them back for unspecified revisions.”

More marble, anyone?

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4. Kasich on Trump: ‘I don’t think he can get elected with this rhetoric’

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, and Donald Trump. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: John Minchillo/AP, Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images )
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, and Donald Trump. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: John Minchillo/AP, Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images )

It’s rare to see a Republican governor refuse to support the Republican nominee for president. It’s even rarer to see a Republican governor refuse to support the Republican nominee when the Republican convention is taking place in the state he’s currently, you know, governor of.

But that’s exactly the situation with Ohio Gov. John Kasich right now. Earlier this week, Kasich sat down with Yahoo News National Political Columnist Matt Bai to explain why he hasn’t been able to bring himself to back Trump — and why he thinks Trump will lose in November. An excerpt:

When I caught up with John Kasich yesterday in a Washington sports bar, I asked Ohio’s governor if he could see himself supporting Donald Trump. He shook his head.

“I’m waiting to see if at this point there’s going to be a Damascus Road experience, a dramatic change,” Kasich said. “And I haven’t seen it. You never know when it can happen. But without that, I won’t be involved.”

Kasich said he couldn’t even see voting for the guy, though he was quick to add he wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, either.

I asked him why he thought Republican leaders in Washington continued to profess their support for Trump, even as they denounced his comments.

“Look, I think in either political party, there’s always a tug between party loyalty, being part of the team and your conscience,” Kasich said. “And there’s a lot of people that are really torn. And I don’t want to excuse them. But human nature being what it is, there’s always a sense of ‘what’s my obligation to the team’ and ‘how does this affect the people I work with.’

“I think that’s why, to some degree, you’re seeing people run away. They won’t even talk to the press. Because they don’t know what to say.”

What about his own party loyalty?

“I’m a Republican,” he told me. “I’m going to travel for Republicans. I’m going to help the ticket in Ohio. But I’ve learned over the course of my career that I have to live with myself and with my family.”

You would think, after the worst mass shooting in American history, and after wave upon wave of Donald Trump’s stunning response to it, elected Republicans would be asking themselves a hard question right now.

Are they going to dutifully follow Trump down this twisted, rapidly descending path to the place where he promises there will be all kinds of winning and “everything is going to be fair” because there’s going to be “total justice”?

Or, like Kasich, are they going to say, “Enough is enough” and set off in search of higher ground?

Kasich is a guy who talks a lot about judgment — although in his case it usually has more to do with pearly gates than future historians. When I asked him about Trump’s reaction to Orlando, he didn’t bother calibrating.

“Terrible,” he told me. “Terrible. It’s not the way you operate as a leader. Terrible. ‘I told you so’? What’s the magic of that? You know, who doesn’t know we are vulnerable to radical Islam? Everyone knows we are vulnerable to it.”

“And then,” Kasich went on, “to somehow insinuate that the president of the United States accepts this or condones this, it’s just outrageous.”

As for American Muslims, Kasich told me: “When they know someone is going to do something to cause violence, they’re going to speak out about it. That’s what I believe.”

I wondered if Trump could win by talking this way.

“I don’t think he can get elected with this rhetoric, no,” Kasich said flatly.

Make sure to read the rest here.

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5. The best of the rest

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History lesson

President Theodore Roosevelt and Alton B. Parker depicted as boxers in a ring, shaking hands before the start of the match. (Photo: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
President Theodore Roosevelt and Alton B. Parker depicted as boxers in a ring, shaking hands before the start of the match. (Photo: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

When the 2016 national political conventions finally conclude on July 28, the Democratic and Republican parties will have both chosen nominees, Clinton and Trump, from a single state: New York.

This doesn’t happen often. The first time was in 1860, when Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas faced off in the general election; both were from Illinois. In 1920, voters had a choice between two Ohioans, James M. Cox and Warren G. Harding.

Only New York has had the honor of producing both the Democratic and Republican nominees on multiple occasions. In 1904, it was Alton B. Parker versus Theodore Roosevelt; in 1944, it was Teddy’s fifth cousin, Franklin, versus Empire State Gov. Thomas Dewey.

This year will mark the third all-New York presidential election in U.S. history. Must be something in the water.

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Countdown

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For the latest data, make sure to check the Yahoo News delegate scorecard and primary calendar.

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