Welcome to the climax of the four-day extravaganza also known as the Republican convention.
On Thursday night, perhaps the most unexpected GOP presidential nominee, Donald Trump – billionaire, real estate tycoon, reality TV star, celebrity hotelier and all-around entrepreneur (golf courses, steaks, wine) – will accept the Republican nomination.
Daughter and trusted adviser Ivanka Trump will introduce him and further personalize the potential commander-in-chief.
A showman at heart, Trump early on promised a convention with pizzazz. A little bit of Las Vegas on Lake Erie. Instead it became more an exercise in disunity and damage control, punctuated by heaps of opprobrium tossed at Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. Bright spots were speeches by his children.
Trump, to no one’s surprise, broke with tradition and has appeared each of the first three convention nights. The nominee usually hibernates until the final night. He emerged through bluish smoke Monday night, so Thursday holds promise for theater.
The protesters on the streets
On Thursday, a group called Stand Together Against Trump is scheduled to hold a peaceful 4 to 11 p.m. downtown march against what they consider the Republican presidential nominee’s sexist and racist rhetoric.
And tensions are increasing. What began as a loud, but civil anti-Trump demonstration and march on Monday turned more aggressive Wednesday night. One protester tried to burn a flag near the Quicken Loans Arena, the convention site. His pant leg caught fire instead. Police arrested 17 people Wednesday night; 22 overall during the convention.
They charged two with felony assault on a law enforcement officer after the officer tried to extinguish the flames and the protester tried to keep the burning flag away from the officer. In doing so, he set another protester’s pants on fire, according to police.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said there are “groups we are keeping tabs on because we know they’re trying to disrupt things at the convention.”
“They don’t want to just protest,” the chief added. “Only reason for being here is disruption, disorder, chaos.”
Among speakers: A gay billionaire
Thursday’s convention begins at 7:30 p.m. Among the other speakers:
▪ GOP Chairman Reince Priebus. He commissioned an autopsy after the party lost the 2012 election that found it needed to reach out more to minorities. He ended up with a candidate in 2016 who has been accused of doing the opposite. But he has been among Trump’s most ardent defenders.
▪ Marsha Blackburn, the conservative Republican congresswoman from Tennessee, leads the GOP House investigation into Planned Parenthood.
▪ Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr., the dean of Liberty University.
▪ Peter Thiel is the co-founder of Pay Pal. He is expected to talk about being gay in his remarks.
▪ Tom Barrack is a real estate investor and former Reagan administration official.
▪ Brock Mealer is a motivational speaker who recovered from a car accident that he believed would leave him unable to walk.
▪ Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is the first woman to hold that office. She is a former member of Congress and was briefly considered for Trump’s running mate.
▪ Dr. Lisa Shin is a member of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump and a Trump delegate.
William Douglas of the McClatchy Washington Bureau contributed.