Clevelanders plan to set a tone of peace and love for the Republican National Convention (RNC), by gathering in unity and in silence on July 17, opening day of the convention.
Circle the City with Love is a nonpartisan, no-labels, no-issue event organized by a collaboration of faith-based communities. It will bring together Clevelanders representing the diversity of Northeast Ohio to stand in intentional silence for 30 minutes. Participants will hold hands from 3-3:30pm while standing on the Hope Memorial Bridge connecting Lorain and Carnegie Avenues. The bridge unites Cleveland’s east and west sides and rises above the city’s historic origin.
The idea for Circle the City with Love originated with Sr. Rita Petruziello of the Congregation of St. Joseph, who hopes for a peaceful event to demonstrate the unifying power of love in the world.
“By standing in unity and intentional silence, we will embody the power of love that brings peace and justice to our city, our country and our world at this important moment in our city’s history,” Sr. Rita said. The event is also a way for Clevelanders to showcase who they are and how they welcome visitors to the city, she noted.
Sr. Rita said the idea for Circle the City with Love originated in March, on the feast day of St. Joseph. “I was talking with a group of friends, and we were all exasperated with the negativity and the shenanigans going on in our political world. Then someone said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could circle our city with love for the upcoming convention?’ Circle the City with Love is actually the name of a song that one of the sisters in our congregation wrote. After our conversation that day, that thought kept lingering with me.”
“We started a discussion about standing in our churchyards with signs and praying for peace and love during the convention,” she said. “A friend of mine suggested that I bring it to the next level and open the event up to all Clevelanders.”
“We want to embody the power of love that brings peace and justice to our city at this important moment in history,” Sr. Rita explained. “We believe that if we release the power of love collectively into the energy field, that it will grow and make a difference. This is based on transformative thought and our belief that one person in the world can make a difference. So, we are going to stand in silence and keep positive energy flowing for one half hour.”
Sr. Rita said there was positive energy in the city when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship. “We think we can build on the Cavs experience,” she noted. “We can build on the energy and the happiness that their championship brought to Cleveland. I’m not a big sports fan, but the Cavs experience made me feel better about myself. That energy is still in Cleveland.”
Joy Roller of Joy Roller Consulting, who is assisting Sr. Rita with publicizing the event, said the idea originated as a plan to stand in churchyards in circles, but has grown to embrace the entire city. “I told Sr. Rita that they should really circle the city with love and let the world see it,” she said. “With permitting issues for the RNC, we decided to have the event across the Hope Memorial Bridge.”
“After we announced plans for our event, we got a call from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. They had already applied for a permit to march around the Wolstein Center, followed by a concert afterwards. They said they would like to join us in our Circle of Love event,” Roller said. “So, people have the option of gathering at the Wolstein Center at 1pm to march to the bridge, or gathering at St. Ignatius High School at 1:30pm. [Note: the gathering place has been changed to the west end of the bridge due to the large number of participants expected]. Everyone is invited to the Wolstein Center at 3:30pm for the Keep the Promise concert.”
“This all embodies Sr. Rita’s mission to stand in unity for love, peace and justice,” she added. “We are sending that message out to the universe and hope that it rubs off and sends positive vibes to the convention. We want the world to know that Cleveland is a loving, peaceful and just city.”
Roller said that Circle the City with Love has already gained the attention of national media. “We hope to have several thousand participants. We will be able to get this message outside of Cleveland,” she said.
Participants in Circle the City with Love are asked to gather at two designated locations: the west end of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge and W. 29th St. and Cleveland State University Wolstein Center, 18th St. and Carnegie Ave. Those who choose not to travel downtown for the event are encouraged to form circles of reflection at the same time at locations of their choosing.
Following the 30 minutes of silence, participants are invited to attend a free Keep the Promise concert sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation at the Wolstein Center. Performers include Jussie Smollett, the Root and Mary Mary.
Participants can register for the event at circlecitywithlove.com, where they can purchase an event t-shirt and sign an online pledge to appear at one of the designated locations, be substance-free, nonviolent and law-abiding while holding hands for 30 minutes as a demonstration of peace and love.
T-shirts can be picked up at the event or on July 16 from 10am to 2pm at the St. Ignatius parking lot.