Photographer Spencer Tunick's project featuring nude women was intended to protest "against the hateful repressive rhetoric of many in the Republican Party towards women and minorities"

By Tierney McAfee
July 18, 2016 05:00 PM
Timotyh A. Clary/AFP/Getty

Mark Twain famously said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

But he never saw the 100-plus women who posed nude outside the Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland to protest the Republican convention.

The women – who held up large, round mirrors facing the arena, where the convention is being held this week – were participating in a performance art piece from artist Spencer Tunick called “Everything She Says Means Everything.” Women of all different ages, shapes and races showed up for the demonstration on the eve of the convention, some to protest the Republican Party itself, and others its presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

The project, according to its website, was intended as a way for “Republicans, Democrats and all other political parties to take part reflecting their anger through art against the hateful repressive rhetoric of many in the Republican Party towards women and minorities.”

“Trump and Pence are giving many in America the belief that is OK to hate. Over 1800 women signed up for the 100 spaces to bare all in this heightened arena of politics and protest and this number alone is a testament to their bravery and desire for change 1800 women would have shown up naked in front on the steps of the convention to make art with what may be the most controversial subject in this presidential race, a woman’s body.”

“By holding mirrors,” the project’s website explained, “we hope to suggest that women are a reflection and embodiment of nature, the sun, the sky and the land.”

Tunick, the artist who organized and photographed the instillation, called Trump a “loser” and criticized “the language and rhetoric of hate against women and minorities coming from the Republican Party.” He added that he felt he had to take a stand against “this idiotic thinking.”

Cathy Scott, a Republican who took part in the protest, told Esquire, “Donald Trump has said so many outrageous, hateful, inflammatory things. He underestimated his female, Republican vote. I feel like he shot himself in the foot a little bit. I don’t think he knows there’s a black, single, 35-year-old mom, like me, who is listening to what he’s saying. I don’t think he knows I’m in his political party – and that’s unfortunate.”

Added Monica Giorgio, a 19-year-old nursing student, “Because of his negative views on women. I think this is a great way to contrast that.”

And protester Darlene English, 42, explained of her participation, “I felt like this was a very important statement to make, especially with my kids. I’ve got a 7-year-old daughter, a 4-year-old boy and a 9-year-old boy and I wanted them to know that there are times when it’s important for them to stand up. I have the belief that [the GOP] is very anti-women, so I wanted to stand up and make a statement that it is unacceptable in 2016.”

Though the artistic demonstration was peaceful, English expressed fear that others protesting the convention could turn to violence. “I told my husband this morning, ‘I hope I don’t get killed by protesters,’ ” she said. “It was definitely a concern.”

Cleveland police officers block an intersection during a demonstration near the site of the Republican National Convention on July 17, 2016 in Cleveland
Justin Sullivan/Getty

She wasn’t the only one who was worried. As hundreds of anti-Trump and Black Lives Matter protesters not sanctioned by the city took to the streets of Cleveland on Monday in hopes of shutting down the GOP convention, police officers riding bikes and wearing what some described as “riot gear” supervised the crowd, MSNBC reported.

The officers were outfitted in padded, long-sleeve jackets, gloves, helmets and shin guards that were purchased with a $50 million federal security grant that the city received for the convention.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams rejected rumors that the bike-style garb was “riot gear,” referring to it instead as “personal protective equipment.” “Just to be clear, there is no such thing as riot gear. The city of Cleveland does not have riot gear,” Williams told Cleveland.com, adding that the clothing was meant to be a defensive tool, not an offensive tool against the protesters.

The police chief told CBSFace the Nation that the city was ready for any and all types of protests.

“We’ve heard reports from different sources about everyone from anarchists to black separatists to just regular Trump followers, anti-Trump followers,” he said. “Everybody has been, in some way, shape or form touted as coming to Cleveland to either cause trouble or exercise their First Amendment rights, but we’re prepared for it all.”

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