He spent the next several minutes critiquing the officer's bikesmanship, pointing out whenever two cycles bumped into each other and doing his best to start a competition between the left and the right column of officers.
Pop a wheelie, not a protester.
Vermin explained to me that his work is all about "avoiding crowd panic." He feels that "fear is a very potent weapon used by the police against the protesters," and he counteracts it with a "two-pronged approach." The first prong is reading excerpts from police and FBI manuals on crowd control, with the goal of making sure everyone knows how things should go. And "when it gets intense," he trots out the absurdist humor. "When the police start doing a move, [protesters] might overreact, and bad things can happen."
His jokes aren't all at the expense of the police, either. Vermin pointed out that crowd control is miserable work. Cops in riot armor get sweaty and start chafing, and that makes them more likely to overreact. "I remember one [protest] ... it was in New York, at one of the conventions, it was hot and sweaty and we were days into it ... and so I changed one of the chants to, 'Give the cops a raise!' because they were looking for a raise at the time ... and by getting the crowd on their side, it changed the whole thing ... they saw the protesters ... differently. And so sometimes it's just really about changing perceptions, and I use absurdity and humor to sort of do that."
Across four days of protests, whenever things started to get hairy and violent, I knew I'd find Vermin at the thick of it, shouting nonsense and trying to calm everyone down. On Tuesday, when the Westboro Baptist Church showed up and the crowd surged around them, furious, Vermin put himself at the front of the line and bellowed into his megaphone, "Hey, where's Shirley [Phelps]? How come Shirley's not here? You are a cheap impostor, sir! We are here to worship Shirley!"
God hates fakes.
And then, reading one of their signs: "Drunkards and murderers and dope-heads and sodomites, those are my voters!" He got a lot of laughs out of the crowd and the police, who knew him by name and seemed to genuinely enjoy his presence.
On Wednesday, when rumors of a flag-burning and a bunch of Bikers for Trump looking to assault said flag-burners filled Cleveland's Public Square, I caught sight of Vermin again, following two men marching with flags, keeping quiet and to the back of the crowd, waiting until he was needed. Unfortunately, the actual flag-burning went down at a completely different location, and ended with five arrests and two injured cops. I don't know that things would've gone down differently if Vermin had been present -- there's clearly a limit to how much comedy can calm down thousands of furious people. But it's probably worth noting that every single time I saw Cleveland protests turn violent, Vermin Supreme was somewhere else.
For more reasons Republicans are really, really crazy, check out Donald Trump Is Courting 9/11 Truthers: The Weird Reality and The Ridiculous Endgame Of The Trump Nomination.
Also, follow us on Facebook, and let's hope no one at the RNC ever becomes president.
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