All This Mayhem: Dispatch #1

rnc1

All This Mayhem: Dispatch #1

by

Okla Elliott (with photos and video by Robert MacCready)

I arrived at the Cleveland Amtrak station at 3:00am. It was darkened to the point of seeming abandoned; two cops stood by the entrance smoking cigarettes and eyeing everyone who came in or out with weary suspicion — though at that hour, this meant only me and maybe three or four others.

Cleveland was deathly quiet, a calm between two storms, yet the tension and tiredness emanating from the two police officers as I walked by them was unsettling. I felt sorry for them, for the unending task this week has already been and will continue to be in their lives. I also worried what that tension and tiredness might lead to as the week ground on.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Aside from the obvious, why was I in Cleveland to cover and comment on the RNC convention? One of my best friends, Robert MacCready, called me on my birthday and after a few perfunctory seconds of well-wishing, he immediately launched into a scheme he said was perfect for us, something we absolutely had to do.

“You live near Philadelphia, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s cover the DNC convention,” he said, not really a suggestion so much as a revelation of unalloyed necessity.

Long story made short: we decided to do our best Hunter S. Thompson and Norman Mailer impressions and do both the RNC and DNC conventions; a few weeks of frantic calling and emailing protest organizations, political candidates, and public officials ensued; Free Press Houston agreed to be our primary sponsor with several other news venues expressing interest in coverage as well. And it was, as they say, on.

rnc_flyerOkay…now that you’re mostly caught up, back to my arrival in Cleveland…

Bob picked me up at the station in a rental car and we went back to where we’ll be staying. We reviewed footage Bob had shot during the day before I arrived and discussed angles of entry for the stories we wanted to bring out all this mayhem. We did a minimum of reminiscing, slipping neatly into our new roles as journalistic/anthropologist collaborators. We finally got to sleep around 5:00am.

As I write this, Bob is editing footage for our first video dispatch. This is what our friendship was always meant to be: sitting across from each other at a table working together. Bob was right when he said, “Man, we have to do this.”

This first dispatch has been largely personal, but I’ll give you three interesting facts about the convention itself:

  1. The only arrests on day-one were for nonviolent offenses.

    vermin

    Vermin Supreme with a new constituent

  2. The Bikers for Trump group had asked for a demonstration permit to accommodate tens of thousands, yet only approximately 1000 showed up, showing either a lack of support or courage on their part.
  3. Vermin Supreme was on the scene, offering Dadaist campaign promises such as a pony for every American, but an identification pony you would have to have with you everywhere to identify yourself as an American citizen.

We’ll be sending video and writerly dispatches as we can, and future dispatches will of course focus more on the convention itself. I will also be on various radio programs and writing for a few newspapers in addition to my in-the-moment dispatches here at As It Ought to Be. Links for all will be forthcoming. For now, enjoy the promo video for our adventures:

About Okla Elliott

I am currently an assistant professor at Misericordia University in northeast Pennsylvania. I hold a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Illinois, an MFA in creative writing from Ohio State University, and a legal studies certificate from Purdue University. My work has appeared in Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, The Hill, Huffington Post, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, A Public Space, and Subtropics, as well as being listed as a "notable essay" in Best American Essays 2015. My books include From the Crooked Timber (short fiction), The Cartographer’s Ink (poetry), The Doors You Mark Are Your Own (a coauthored novel), Blackbirds in September: Selected Shorter Poems of Jürgen Becker (translation), and Bernie Sanders: The Essential Guide (nonfiction).
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