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Peacefully Considering The Election At An Anarchists Convention

We’ll be reporting from Cleveland all week and live-blogging each night. Check out all our dispatches from the GOP convention here.

CLEVELAND — Frank Becker, a Cleveland resident, says he’s not voting in the presidential election in November. Although he thinks the Republican convention is “great for the city,” he’s not enthusiastic about the candidates.

“The government’s going to do what the government will do,” Becker said. “They don’t care about the people.” He wants more local jobs with good benefits, and free education, as some European countries provide. He also worries that some of the agitators drawn to the extremes of American politics want to start a race war.

“That don’t make no sense,” he said.

Frank Becker and his girlfriend at the anarchists' convention.

Frank Becker and his girlfriend at the anarchists’ convention.

Farai Chideya

I met Becker and his girlfriend, who declined to give her name, at an event on Sunday night billing itself as the Anarchist National Convention. The headliner was the industrial band Ministry, which was nominated for a Best Metal Performance Grammy in 1993 for the song “N.W.O. (New World Order),” which samples former President George H.W. Bush saying those words and features a man in a papier-mâché mask of Bush dancing in a gun- and riot-filled video.

Dictionaries define anarchy variously as the “absence of government,” “a state of lawlessness or political disorder” prompted by the lack of government, or a utopia absent a government. On Monday night, when Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County told the convention that the Black Lives Matter movement represented “anarchy,” it was clear he meant the second of those meanings.

But in Cleveland, at the Agora theatre (outside of which five people had been shot two nights before in an incident that police officials said was probably not related to the convention), the Anarchist National Convention crowd was peaceful. Nearly all of the hundreds of attendees were white. Their dress code: anything black, boots, tattoos.

A contingent of the concertgoers had arrived on Harleys and touring bikes, which they revved loudly on their way out. Some had driven for four hours or more to hear the headliners. Steve Cunningham, 36, who made the two-plus-hour drive from Pittsburgh with his girlfriend Kristen, 35, who declined to give her last name, said he would reluctantly vote.

“It gives me a headache but I’m going to do it,” he said.

Not everyone at the event wants to tear down civilization; one person told me she even supports Obamacare. But Kristen said she would support whoever would destroy the government faster, so that the country could rebuild.

“Donald Trump,” she said. “That’s who the answer is for destroying us sooner.”

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Farai Chideya is a former senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.