Photo Essay A Lens on the GOP Convention: Protesters, Pontificators and the Surveillance State, Day 4

Editor’s note: Photojournalist Michael Nigro was in Cleveland to provide Truthdig with photos and videos of noteworthy moments from outside the 2016 GOP convention, where protesters and activists gathered to express their views. You can check out his coverage of Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3, if you missed it.

CLEVELAND—It was way too early in the morning when I read a neglected email sent to me on Day 3 of the Republican National Convention. The message was sent from a good friend who had traveled to Cleveland and was working with one of the alphabet monster-media outlets. The email’s subject line: Bad Joke.

His missive was an apology for a text he had sent along with a screen grab photo of me filming on the street, covering one of the many protests, with a caption that read: My buddy at the NSA sent this photo to me!

It was sent as a joke, and though I didn’t respond to it, I read it purely as humor. He took my silence, however, as annoyance, which made him rethink what he had sent.

This man, my friend, fights the good fight and does not disassociate himself from social justice issues. It was simply his current work situation. He was trapped inside the belly of the GOP beast working, and because he has a conscience, he felt compelled to send me an apology.

The apology was not necessary, but I’ll share a portion of what he wrote because it has resonance with the mood of those who walked the caged streets of Cleveland all week.

His email began: “Just wanted to apologize for the joke about where I got the photo today – I tease about the surveillance state but I can see how it’s going a bit too far given all you’re seeing out there right now.”

He went on to say, “For me the RNC has been banality not intensity… Being stuck in the [arena], I feel really detached from what’s happening on the ground.”

Detached. I get it.

After spending the last four days locked out of the GOP’s heavily guarded political fortress, talking with protesters and pontificators, anarchists and constitutionalists, the poor and the privileged, etc., etc., their collective frustration mirrors what my friend had felt. They, too, feel detached, except they are stuck on the outside.

This feeling is not new.

People, like my friend, want to connect and want to be heard. Many of the people I met during the Republican National Convention attended because they feel that organizing, shouting and engaging in acts of civil disobedience is now the only way to have a voice, to have political agency.

Donald Trump spoke to the nation Thursday night. He formally accepted the presidential nomination of the Republican Party. But the nation, I think it’s safe to say, will interpret his formal acceptance on a sliding spectrum. Hand-waving ecstasy on one side, face-palming disbelief on the other, and every negative and/or positive hand gesture you can conjure somewhere in between.

No, it’s not a banal reality show. It’s intense reality. And the people whom I have been with in the streets will continue to fight and point out a bad joke when they see one.

Goodbye, Republican National Convention in Cleveland — see Day 4 photos in this .

Wait, before you go…

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