Accessibility links

U.S. Republican Party Convention Kicks Off With An Uproar In Cleveland

  • RFE/RL

The U.S. Republican National Convention kicked off with an uproar on July 18 after critics of presumptive nominee Donald Trump failed to secure a symbolic vote demonstrating their opposition to his candidacy.

Trump fended off the insurgent move and held sway throughout the evening, making an unexpected early appearance and introducing his wife, Melania, who sought to help him overcome his image as anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim by stressing that he intends to be an inclusive president if elected.

The four-day convention in Cleveland, Ohio, is expected to officially nominate Trump as the party’s candidate for the presidential election on November 8 and is seen as an opportunity for his campaign to show that the party has united behind him.

But dissent within the party seized an early limelight on the first day of the convention as anti-Trump delegates sought to change the nominating rules to allow them a chance to back another candidate.

After a voice vote, party leaders declared that the opponents did not have enough votes, sparking an outcry on the floor of the stadium where the convention is being held.

Angry delegates proceeded to chant "roll call, roll call" in an ultimately futile bid to stage a vote in which every state would weigh in. Other delegates, including the delegation from Colorado, simply walked off the floor of the convention.

"We deserve to be heard. This is the people's convention!" Diana Shores, a delegate from Virginia, cried as delegates supporting Trump attempted to drown out voices of protest by yelling "Shame! Shame!"

Trump, a billionaire businessman and reality TV star, has never held public office. With his brash rhetoric and accusations that the U.S. political system is "rigged," Trump has struggled to capture the backing of many mainstream Republicans.

Factions within the Republican Party have launched a movement called "Never Trump." The candidate last week declared the movement dead, writing on Twitter: "#NeverTrump is never more."

Some 2,000 delegates have descended on the Cleveland arena, where Trump is expected to close the convention with an acceptance speech late on July 21.

The convention at the Quicken Loans Arena, where the gathering will take place amid tight security, opened in the shadow of recent killings of police officers and African-American men.

Trump's supporters will promote what he has billed as a tough line on law and order and national security in speeches later in the day.

The July 17 shooting of three policemen in Baton Rouge, a targeted attack that may have been in retaliation for a series of police killings of African-Americans -- hung over the gathering.

The theme for the first day of the meeting had already been set as "Make America Safe Again," a play on Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again."

Trump's wife, Melania, a Slovenian jewelry designer and former model, took center stage on July 18 with a speech in which she insisted her husband will be an inclusive president if elected, serving all Americans regardless of race, religion, or income.

Melania Trump's portrayal of her husband appeared aimed at pushing back against criticism he has faced over controversial statements about Muslims and immigrants.

"Donald intends to represent all of the people, not just some of the people," she told the convention after being introduced by her husband, who made a dramatic entrance set to the song We Are The Champions by the British rock band Queen.

Melania Trump acknowledged the "excitement and drama" of the Trump campaign but said that "through it all my husband will remain focused on one thing: this beautiful country he loves so much."

She was swiftly accused of plagiarism after the discovery that two passages of her speech appeared similar to the speech first lady Michelle Obama delivered in 2008 at the Democratic National Convention.

In one of the passages in question, Melania Trump said: "From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life."

It matched nearly word for word a line in Michelle Obama’s speech.

Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort dismissed the criticism, saying “there’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech.”

"Certainly, there's no feeling on [Melania Trump’s] part that she did it," Manafort said on July 19.

Among those set to speak later at the convention are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, as well as former rivals who dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination: Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio.

Just a few blocks from the arena in downtown Cleveland, meanwhile, opponents and supporters of Trump faced off in separate street protests that were not marred by physical violence despite heated rhetoric between the two camps.

Cleveland police are reporting few problems and one arrest as night fell on the first day of the Republican National Convention.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams told reporters on July 18 that law enforcement had seen few problems on the first day of the convention. He said there had been just one arrest of a person who had a felony warrant and was being charged with obstructing official business and resisting arrest.

Trump has sparked controversy with his calls to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and restrict immigration by Muslims, steps he describes as necessary to protect Americans' security.

Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has said that "the plan for the Trump campaign for this convention is to help the American people understand more about Donald Trump the man, not just the candidate that they've seen on the campaign trail."

The Democratic National Convention will be held next week in Philadelphia, where the party is expected to nominate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as its presidential candidate.

Addressing the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in another Ohio city -- Cincinnati -- on July 18, Clinton called Trump's candidacy a "threat to our democracy" and accused him of fueling ethnic and racial tensions with his rhetoric.

"Donald Trump cannot become president of the United States," Clinton said, drawing boisterous applause from the audience.

Clinton’s campaign on July 18 quickly released a video mash-up – tweeted out by the presumptive Democratic nominee -- of the controversy on the convention floor in Cleveland, declaring that Trump “lost control of his own convention before it even started.”

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, and AP