CLEVELAND (CBS) — Police fired pepper spray at a surging crowd and detained several demonstrators after skirmishes broke out over a flag-burning protestWednesday in the streets outside the Republican National Convention.
It was the most turbulent protest since the four-day convention began on Monday. The chaos prevented members of the media and others from getting into the Quicken Loans Arena for the evening’s proceedings.
Lt. Michael Butler said 10 to 16 people were taken into custody and would be charged.
Two officers were assaulted and suffered minor injuries, police said. One officer was seen bleeding from his elbow.
A self-identified evangelical group out of Indiana have been the same group instigating people in crowds at Public Square and Mall B throughout the week,CBS affiliate WOIO reported.
Protesters started yelling at the crowd, then several people went up to the group and shoving and fist-punching started.
Officers, some wearing riot helmets, yelled at the crowd to move back as the flag-burning group locked arms. Police Chief Calvin Williams was one of several officers in the middle of the crowd, trying to keep order.
Police used their horses to create a path to a van for people being detained.
Earlier, blocks away from the arena, the right-wing religious group lifted a banner reading “Jesus is angry with you sinners,” while kissing lesbians mocked their message, helping turn Cleveland’s Public Square into part-carnival, part-debate floor.
he expansive square was a free-flowing mix of ideas and beliefs along with colorful characters pounding on bongos and wailing on a sousaphone.
The day’s demonstrations started with a few dozen people holding banners printed with a red-brick design and forming a human wall to mock Donald Trump’s plan to seal off the Mexican border.
“We want to wall off the hate of Trump,” said Tim Chavez, of Columbus.
A half-dozen Trump supporters defended the GOP nominee from attacks by immigration activists.
Police officers used bicycles and their bodies to separate those with opposing views.
Jesse Gonzalez, of Lakewood, a Cleveland suburb, carried a rifle on Public Square while wearing a camouflage-style “Make America Great Again” hat.
“I’m out here to illustrate that not all gun owners, if any or very few, are irresponsible or uneducated,” he said.
The city’s police chief said he spent three hours Tuesday evening riding with bicycle officers on patrol and that he waded into one confrontation because he’s “still a police officer.”
Williams said he plans to show up wherever there are “issues” during the convention.
As of Tuesday evening, police said five people had been arrested since the start of the convention.
That includes one person accused of trying to steal a state trooper’s gas mask and three people charged with climbing flagpoles at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and hanging an anti-Trump banner.