Hundreds of demonstrators gather on convention's last day

CLEVELAND (AP) — Hundreds of demonstrators — including anarchists, anti-Muslim protesters, Bikers for Trump and those calling themselves pro- and anti-capitalist — gathered in Cleveland's Public Square on Thursday ahead of Donald Trump's star turn on the final night of the Republican convention.

Police on bicycles and on foot formed barriers to keep hostile groups apart as debates but no fighting broke out.

As with other demonstrations over the past four days, police were out in force to keep the peace, and Police Chief Calvin Williams was in the middle of it again, riding with a bike patrol unit in the square.

Anti-Trump forces scheduled an evening rally in the square that was expected to draw a big crowd. Trump was set to accept his party's nomination Thursday night.

As of Thursday morning, police reported 23 protest-related arrests since Monday, well below what law enforcement officials had feared. Seventeen of the arrests came Wednesday, during a melee that erupted during a flag-burning outside an entrance to the convention arena.

Trump said on Thursday that Cleveland police were doing "an incredible job."

Early in the afternoon, about 150 protesters carrying signs saying "Ban All Trumps Not Muslims" and chanting "Love Trumps Hate" marched across a bridge leading into downtown.

The protest by a group called Stand Together Against Trump drew little notice outside a heavy police presence. Officers on rooftops watched through binoculars, while police on bicycles pedaled along the streets with no other traffic.

The demonstrators, in sweltering heat pushing above 90 degrees, dutifully followed the city's designated route for protest marches.

"Trump is trying to use the moment to divide us. He's trying to use the moment to gain personal power," said march organizer Bryan Hambley, a Cleveland doctor.

Officers got between the marchers and a few conservative religious counter-protesters to make sure no skirmishes broke out.

Meanwhile, organizers of the flag-burning denied on Thursday that the man holding the American flag was on fire and said police used that as an excuse to move in.

Two officers were assaulted and suffered minor injuries, police said. The charges against those arrested included failure to disperse, resisting arrest and felonious assault on a police officer.

Among those arrested was Gregory "Joey" Johnson, whose torching of a flag at a GOP convention three decades ago led to the landmark 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said flag-burning is protected by the First Amendment.


Associated Press writer Mark Gillispie contributed to this report.