Out-of-Towners Get Creative in Finding Last-Minute Housing During RNC

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With hotels in the greater Cleveland area long since booked, and other affordable housing options limited, the city of Cleveland and community leaders have had to get creative to house out-of-town demonstrators. 

Last Wednesday, under pressure by community leaders and demonstrators concerned with insufficient housing options, Cleveland’s Board of Control voted to allow camping in Kirtland Park on the southwest corner of East 49th Street and South Marginal Road on the city’s eastside. Stated in the updated regulations, “the size and significance of the Convention creates unique challenges for the City that require additional regulations to assist in promoting and protecting the general health and safety of the residents and visitors of the City during the Convention.”

Those affected by the lack of housing options will be allowed to camp in the park from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. free of charge. The temporary regulations will be in effect until 9 a.m. on Friday, July 22. Other parks in the city remain off-limits to camping.

Larry Bresler, the executive director of Organize Ohio, a Cleveland-based grassroots organization helming a coalition of 29 groups with a variety of causes, says that out-of-town demonstrators who have come to protest are concerned about safety in Kirtland Park. “Some are scared to stay,” he tells Scene.

Camping in Kirtland Park are first-come, first-served, allowing opposing groups, some of which have garnered controversy in the past few months, to camp side by side. Groups like the New Black Panther Party, Bikers for Trump and the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) have raised particular concern. In June, the latter was involved in a skirmish on the steps of the California State Capitol in Sacramento in which 10 people were injured.

Following the Board of Control’s decision, Rick Horvath of the City Law Department told Fox 8 when asked if there will be a police presence at the park, “we’re not commenting on the security plan for the Convention.”

Indoor housing options have remained open to protestors in part by the efforts of author and activist Randy Cunningham. In the weeks leading up to the RNC, Cunningham, who is retired, has been working around the clock to find housing for out-of-town protestors on the city’s west side and suburbs.

“It’s like you’re in the eye of the hurricane, but you have to be almost monomaniacal,” he says.

Cunningham has worked closely with St. Paul’s Community Church, Denison Avenue United Church of Christ, and Grace Church on the city’s west side, and local residents to find housing for what he calls “radical tourists.” He estimates he has found housing for as many as 50 people. “The difficult part is finding housing near mass transit,” he says.

Though he has other options for out-of-town protestors as far as Newburgh Heights, Peninsula, and in Cuyahoga National Park, transportation has, like hotels, been booked for months.

Also serving out-of-town protesters, the Masonic Arts Center of Ohio City on Franklin Ave. will function as what Bresler has called a “welcome center for protesters.” Though no housing is available on-site, the center will feature music, poetry, peace keeper training and serve as a networking center for protestors.

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