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Cavs' parade provides city road map for convention

POSTED: Jul 16, 2016 7:12 PM ET

By Steve Aschburner

BY Steve Aschburner

NBA.com

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The city of Cleveland used the Cavaliers' parade to help prepare for this week's Republican National Convention.

In size and scope, what's going on in Cleveland this week pales in comparison to the crowds that flooded the downtown streets and venues last month to celebrate not only the Cleveland Cavaliers' first NBA championship but the city's first major sports title in 52 years.

Viewed from the perspective of sheer numbers, what the Cavaliers and their fans threw at Cleveland police and other law-enforcement agencies, particularly on June 22 for the victory parade, was way more of a challenge than handling the Republican National Convention.

A throng estimated at anywhere from 1 million to 1.3 million people showed up to witness the Cavs' parade and rally. Other than one incident late in the day in which a teenager fired a handgun and wounded a 13-year-old girl in the legs, there were no other major arrests. Some fans spilled into the route itself, turning what was intended as a one-hour parade into a four-hour crawl, but hey, that just kept party going.

That was a lower-case "party," mind you. Now Cleveland is serving as host to the upper-case version, as the Republican Party prepare to officially nominate Donald Trump as its 2016 Presidential candidate Monday through Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena. You might have a hard time convincing some of LeBron James' and Kyrie Irving's fans that the stakes are higher now. But the range of emotions, attitudes and opinions certainly will be broader. And probably hotter.

Rob Frost, chairman of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party, said the relatively smooth process of handling a million people crammed into several square blocks downtown was a good sign for what's expected next week.

"It won't be that volume of people, but seeing that they could handle that makes everybody feel more comfortable that the preparations are in place," Frost said. "The difference will be, while there will be fewer people ... it can be more controversial, even adversarial if there are professional protestors. There was no one protesting against the Cavs in that celebration. That was a happy crowd."

This figures to be an exuberant, boisterous and perhaps contentious crowd, with warring factions in the GOP -- Trump supporters vs. #NeverTrump types -- splitting opinions and possibly votes from within. Then there are Democratic groups that will be exercising their Constitutional rights -- and perhaps overstepping their bounds -- in assembling for peaceful protest.

Think more the clamor that resulted from LeBron's "The Decision" in 2010, rather than the giddiness unleashed by his return in July 2014 and the successful quest for his latest ring.

It takes two to tussle, so whether it is conflict between Trump/GOP opponents and supporters or protestors and the police themselves, Cleveland officials are hoping for the best. Oh, they have taken precautions, cordoning off certain streets and sidewalks with concrete barriers and erecting miles of steel fencing. The city has boosted its liability insurance from $10 million to $50 million, according to Cleveland.com, paying a $9.5 million premium for the anticipated risks.

A designated protest-parade route has been laid out adjacent to Progressive Field (home of the MLB Indians), just south of The Q. Three parks have been set aside for protest groups to reserve time. There also is a speakers' platform in the newly renovated Public Square.

'We really hope we have a good, safe event," said Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia, Cleveland PD public-information officer. "I'm kind of quoting Deputy Chief [Ed] Tomba when I say, 'Downtown is open for business. It will be business as usual in an unusual manner.' It will be very busy down here."

Ciaccia said one-third of the Cleveland PD will be dedicated to convention security. In addition, the Secret Service will be on the job and some law-enforcement agencies from the suburbs have pledged officers and resources.

The Cavaliers are providing the arena where the RNC events will be staged, and they were on board from the project's inception. But none of the players, coaches or front-office personnel is expected to have any role while the convention unspools, said Tad Carper, the team's senior VP of communications and broadcasting.

So local viewers won't see James, Irving or any of their teammates in any PSA spots similar to what the NBA produced in anticipation of the championship celebration.

"Most of the trouble-making would come from people coming from out of town," Carper said. "Not Clevelanders or Cavs fans."

Frost estimated that 50,000 people might descend on Cleveland from outside the region, with the rest being local. Since only 20,000 or so can actually get into The Q, GOP planners have taken another page from the Cavs' book: they are scheduling "watch parties" each night on the plaza between the arena and the ballpark. The TV broadcast will be carried on big screens. Then, at the end of each night, there will be a concert.

"In addition to protest opportunities, there are ways to be involved in the convention even if you're not a delegate," Frost said.

He added last week, somewhat optimistically: "Clevelanders, even Democrats -- the one who led the charge to get this convention was Frank Jackson, our mayor, who is a Democrat -- we all want Cleveland to shine. We're unified in that. Professional protestors who come in from out of town, I think they're going to find a different Cleveland.

"Even those who disagree with Donald Trump, even those who disagree with the Republican platform, if they're Clevelanders, they don't want a black eye for Cleveland. They want Cleveland to be able to shine."

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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