CLEVELAND (AP) — Police broke up scuffles between groups of demonstrators a few blocks from the Republican National Convention as crowds in the hundreds gathered Tuesday afternoon.
There were no arrests, police said, despite several tense moments that saw officers step in between protesters pushing and shouting at each other during some of the biggest, most raucous gatherings in downtown Cleveland since the four-day convention began on Monday.
One skirmish broke out when right-wing conspiracy theorist and radio show host Alex Jones started speaking in downtown’s Public Square through a bullhorn. Police on bicycles pushed back a surging crowd, and Jones was whisked away.
Minutes later, more officers on bicycles formed a line to separate a conservative religious group from a communist-leaning organization carrying a sign that read, “America Was Never Great.”
Overall, five people have been arrested since the convention started, said police spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia.
That includes one person accused of trying to steal a state trooper’s gas mask and three people who allegedly climbed flagpoles at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and hung an anti-Donald Trump banner.
The demonstrators on Tuesday — including anti-Muslim protesters, religious conservatives and marchers decrying racism and “murder by police” — appeared outnumbered by law officers and members of the media.
Demonstrators soon spilled into the streets, and some appeared to be making their way toward the convention arena before turning back. More skirmishes broke out at one intersection. But by the evening, the protests were breaking up.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams waded into crowds of demonstrators during the day, warning one group, “It’s an unlawful gathering. You’re blocking a city street.” They eventually moved along.
About 300 officers from more than a dozen law enforcement agencies are patrolling on bicycles in downtown Cleveland during the convention, the police chief said.
Supporters of bike patrols say they make officers more maneuverable and less threatening-looking at a time when tensions are running high between police and the public.
Also Tuesday, health officials said 11 members of the planning team for the California delegation to the Republican convention were recovering from a bout of norovirus, or what’s commonly known as stomach flu. No delegates appeared to be affected.
The symptoms, which can include vomiting and diarrhea, were first reported Thursday as logistics members arrived at a hotel about an hour west of Cleveland, said Pete Schade, Erie County health commissioner.
Those who got sick are keeping themselves isolated in their rooms, Schade said, and the Ohio Health Department is trying to identify the source. Norovirus can be contracted from an infected person, from contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.
Ohio Health Department spokesman Russ Kennedy confirmed there was at least one suspected norovirus case and said the victim was apparently infected before arriving in Ohio, based on when the person fell ill.
Cynthia Bryant, executive director of the California GOP, told delegation members to wash their hands frequently, avoid shaking hands and not to share food.
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