Going to the Republican National Convention in July?

Don’t bring tennis balls, fake guns, squirt guns, canned food, ladders, martial arts nunchaku, grappling hooks, sleeping bags or gas masks. Those items, Cleveland city officials and police said this week, might do damage. On the other hand, the city cannot ban loaded firearms — including assault rifles carried openly.

In guidelines hemmed by Ohio gun law and the Secret Service, Cleveland officials released a 15-page document (see Ohio.com) Wednesday spelling out restrictions for visitors nearest to Quicken Loans Arena from July 18 to 21.

Early permit pullers are not happy with the limitations placed on where, when and for how long protesters may exercise their constitutional right to march, rally and speak freely.

“It’s just utterly unacceptable,” said Larry Bresler, director of Organize Ohio, which has been coordinating with 27 local and national groups to host a 5,000-person march down Euclid Avenue at noon on the first day of the convention.

The city’s new guidance funnels protesters who march in “parades” over the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge on the city’s west side. Marches must be 50 minutes long between 2 and 4 p.m. the first day.

“It’s just not going to happen, particularly if you have thousands of people,” said Bresler, who figured the back of the parade standing on the bridge would be standing still by the time the front reaches the finish lines and is dispersed by authorities. “This is not something that has been done in previous conventions. It’s just not something that is feasible.”

No fake guns

Cleveland has jurisdiction over banning items not regulated by state law. And because state law allows for the open carry of loaded firearms, only the Secret Service can confiscate them.

Dan Tierney, spokesman for Attorney General Mike DeWine, said the state has been participating in closed security meetings, which he could not discuss, with clients involved in planning the RNC.

As for restricting real guns, Tierney said there’s been talk of the legislature carving out an exemption in the state’s open-carry law.

However, Tierney added: “I would point out that the legislature [has] held its last expected session until November, so I wouldn’t expect a law to be passed prior to the convention.”

No occupancy

The city also is prohibiting camping or encampments, like the “free speech safe space for anti-Trump protesters” planned by anti-war activist John Penley.

“Totally unacceptable,” said Penley, whose attorney joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and Bresler’s group to send a letter last week threatening to sue if Cleveland doesn’t process protesters’ permits with enough time to plan for the worst-case scenario.

“I don’t want to see a whole bunch of people — especially anti-war veterans and elderly people who come to protest — sleeping on sidewalks and getting arrested,” Penley said of clearing the parks at night. “They’re going to have to use a lot of police to get people out of that park and I don’t want them to have to do that.”

Penley had also planned to host a concert headlined by former members of Rage Against the Machine.

Cleveland Metroparks, which is a separate entity from the city, denied Penley’s park camping permit request, saying it is not the parks’ responsibility to secure liability insurance for concerts or provide amenities, including restrooms and waste removal, for the thousands of people on behalf of whom Penley had filed the permit.

In an email sent Thursday to Penley, Sam Cario, the parks’ general manager of Events & Experiences, suggested Penley seek funding from the city because it, not the metro parks, received “resources necessary to host the RNC.”

Protesters, who say city officials have been receptive to talks, advocate for looser guidelines.

“My opinion, they’re too restrictive. The First Amendment talks about reasonable time place restrictions,” said Norman Siegel, Penley’s attorney and a former director of the New York ACLU. “These are unreasonable time place restrictions.”

Cleveland reached out to Siegel Wednesday night after announcing the restrictions, which would bar protesters from sleeping in parks when the city’s hotels have been booked solid.

“The goal is to have as little arrests as possible. And that’s one area that I looked at last night and said, ‘Oh my God.’?’’ Siegel said Thursday. “Their eyes are closed to the idea of where people are going to sleep.”

Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com.