The Westboro Baptist Church was here a couple hours earlier but nothing dramatic as so few people were around to see them. They retreated within an hour. Now it’s just me and the few random people hanging out. And of course the cops.
The only real distraction is my phone. It’s been going off all morning to the tune of Stealer’s Wheel “Stuck In The Middle With You”, which draws mild glares from the Austin Texas Police – safe to assume they’ve seen “Reservoir Dogs”.
Do not get arrested. Check.
I decided to make my way back into the center of town, stopping first at E. 4th St. I found an open seat at Saigon Restaurant and asked the current occupants if they wouldn’t mind if I sat here for a moment just to take notes and update social media. They obliged.
As I sit down, the girl at the table next to us says, “Watch out, this guy here thinks all women are tramps.”
I look over and an older gentleman is there with a handmade sign that reads “Hillary Is A Tramp”.
“Well, we won’t tell him about some of the trampier things I’ve done then.” He managed a short smile.
The girl carries on about how he’s a misogynist, his family must be so proud of him, and it’s disrespectful to women to call them tramps and you wouldn’t say that to a man. He countered saying Hillary is a tramp, so is her husband, he can say whatever he wants and fuck you if you don’t like it.
“Well, he could have called her a cunt. That would have been worse, no?”
Both tables stopped and just stared at me like they couldn’t believe I’d said it. Oh come on, you two spitting all this vitriol at one another and you’re gonna look at me funny because I said the c-word? Unbelievable.
The yelling started at the south end of E. 4th, and within seconds a flood of officers, mostly Cleveland and Florida State Highway Patrol, started running down the road. Some kind of shit is going down. I packed up my bag and ran after them, aware that I needed to stay out of their way. Everyone with a camera and a press pass was running with me. A line of police blocked us from going any further out into the intersection and started moving the crowd back. A team of mounted police were moving into the scuffle from the right and the horses were dancing a bit, like they were trying to move between people. We were all crammed in together at the front of the stage, some general observers but it was mostly a mosh pit of media. Something resembling smoke, possibly mace, was coming from the center of the street. I threw up my phone alongside hundreds of other phones and just waited.
The yelling stopped and we could see officers and civilians on the ground with hands behind their backs. The horses started backing out. A guy next to me started talking about these people “exercising their right to free fucking speech” and explained that they were burning an American flag and arrested for it. Everyone with a mobile phone or a mic was asking him questions. He looked terribly familiar and I was able to determine it was Alec Baldwin. He looked a little sweaty, a little angry and was more than happy to come to the defense of the flag-burners’ rights of expression.
The scene started to break up and I slowly backed out, feeling high on adrenaline and in need of a cigarette. I shook Baldwin’s hand and thanked him for being there and went back down 4th to find an open spot to smoke and post my raw video footage.
Never once did the police not have control of the situation, never once did I feel unsafe, never once did the cops act like complete dicks in order to maintain control of the situation. It was a win-win for anyone that wasn’t currently in a set of handcuffs.
Do not get dead. Check.
The rest of my day was a lot less eventful. There were the typical weird people I spoke to that always show up to these kinds of things, out-of-staters telling me what a beautiful city we have here, and a Forth Worth, Texas, mounted officer singing “You Are My Sunshine” for giggly onlookers. After three days I feel like I’m actually getting used to the Jesus people on bullhorns; they’re yelling into my ear how AIDS is our punishment for allowing queers to marry one another and I just keep walking like meh. Whatevs.
In real news, former candidate for president Ted Cruz was booed after his convention speech for not endorsing Donald Trump. The future Republican VP candidate Mike Pence was finally able to take the spotlight for himself and delivered a simple, grounded speech that was well-received by the delegation. Tiffany Trump’s speech on Tuesday night piqued the Internet’s interest in a pop song she released in 2011 and it’s been playing on home computers and mortifying music snobs all day.
I admit I am exhausted and give far less fucks than I did three days ago when I started all this. It’s been a wonderful ride so far, but my body and my brain are both a bit fried. Stay tuned tomorrow for whatever I can muster up for this final day of coverage. Also read Senior Writer Adam Dodd’s review of the news from inside the convention, and check out our video clips!