The One RNC Photo You Absolutely Have To See
In Cleveland's Public Square, less than half a mile from where Republican nominee Donald Trump was laying out his election platform at Quicken Loans Arena, people from all across the country gathered in a hodgepodge of protesters, supporters, and career activist groups, all looking to get their message to the masses. Although protests outside the GOP's nominating convention in Cleveland have been largely peaceful and subdued, tensions remained high as various groups find that their messages conflict. However, amid the anger and fear seeming to surround the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week, some demonstrators are hoping to spread a nonpartisan message — love.
As Republicans outlined a shockingly regressive party platform that put a heavy emphasis on religion, anti-LGBTQ policies, and Trump's Mexican border wall, opinions and tempers were flaring outside the arena as Trump's critics and champions converged to voice their dissent or support for the man leading the political show roughly half a mile away. It was a scene typical of any high-profile national political event. There were those who feel All Lives Matter shouting down those who think Blue Lives Matter shouting down those who say Black Lives Matter. Communist protesters antagonize Bikers for Trump, who in turn antagonize members of Stand Together Against Trump, who can't help but antagonize gun-toting Second Amendment enthusiasts. And in the midst of it all, a heavy police presence.
Amid the tense differences of opinions and the din of clashing tempers, however, are two voices looking to spread a simple message, but perhaps much-needed message, about the power of love. "We need some love around here," 25-year-old Cleveland native Brittany Atterberry tells Bustle, a saxophone slung around her neck and a fedora pulled low over her eyes. "No matter who you vote for — it can be Mickey Mouse or Daffy Duck — we just need love."
Atterberry, a saxophonist and music therapist, has been bringing her nonpartisan musical message to the Republican National Convention since Tuesday. "This is an independent thing," Atterberry stresses when asked if she's affiliated with any particular group. "I just got up and said, 'This is what I'm going to bring to the streets of Cleveland.' I think music is the one thing that brings everybody together... so I came down here to bring some peace and some happiness to everybody," she says, offering a quick serenade to five Cleveland police officers standing nearby.
Atterberry's message may be nonpartisan, but it isn't without supporters. Joining Atterberry in her demonstration for peace and love is 35-year-old George Fossett, who carries a sign calling to "End Racism" and pulls a cart with a blown up photograph of the word "love" written across a night sky with a sparkler.
"I think music is the one thing that brings everybody together... So, I came down here to bring some peace and some happiness to everybody," she says.
Fossett's answer was simple when Bustle asked why he came out to the streets around the Quicken Loans Arena. "To show love," the Cleveland native tells Bustle. "This is what the world needs: peace and love." The duo seem resolved to remind everyone they meet during the Republican National Convention that love has the power to bring people together, no matter their differences, to bridge the growing divide between political parties.
According to Fossett, love even has the power to end racism and bring peace. Yet he acknowledges there is strength in numbers. "I'm only one person," he says. "I can't do it all alone but, you know, eventually it's going to happen — end racism, end all this bickering and battering over nothing."
In an election year fraught with a heightened sense of political polarization and conflict, Atterberry and Fossett's message is one that can be hard to hear over the clamor of those riding the Trump train and those hoping to see the whole thing derail. Yet while simple and subdued, perhaps it's a message worth seriously mulling over. After all, we'll all have to work together, no matter who ends up in the White House come Jan. 20.
Additional reporting and images by Emily Shire and Hayley Saltzman/Bustle (4)