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World

Trump Backers, Some with Guns, Gather for First Big Rally

The supporters said they want to exercise their rights

A demonstrator takes a picture of the police line during the Shut Down Trump & the RNC protest on Sunday, July 17, 2016, in Cleveland, photo: AP/ John Minchillo
1 year ago

CLEVELAND — Several hundred Donald Trump supporters and opponents held rallies a half-mile apart as the four-day Republican National Convention opened on Monday with police on edge in this summer of violence.

A few Trump backers openly carried guns as allowed under Ohio law.

While there was a large police presence downtown and near the convention site around midday, just a few dozen officers on bikes stood watch during the pro-Trump rally along the Cuyahoga River.

Trump supporters who brought guns said they simply wanted to exercise their rights.

“You don’t see Trump supporters doing anything that is extreme,” said Josh Clark, of Erie, Pennsylvania. “It’s more of a peaceful get-together.”

Joel Ameigh, of Hershey, Pennsylvania, who had a Smith & Wesson handgun strapped to his belt, said he is not necessarily a Trump backer but wanted to hear from the speakers at the “America First” rally sponsored by Citizens for Trump.

“We’re not here to be dangerous people. We’re not here to intimidate anyone. There are laws against that sort of thing,” he said.

The deadly truck attack in France and the ambush killings of five police officers earlier this month in Dallas and three more in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, over the weekend have heightened fears of bloodshed in Cleveland.

On Sunday, the president of the police union asking Ohio Gov. John Kasich to suspend the law allowing gun owners to carry firearms in plain sight. But Kasich said he didn’t have that authority.

Cleveland patrolman Bohdan Roshetsky, an eight-year veteran, said that after the recent shootings, “our awareness is extremely high.”

He said he was surprised by an outpouring of support on Monday, including hugs and requests for pictures.

“I’ve been brought to tears numerous times riding around on the bike, seeing them cheering, clapping, thanking us for being there,” he said.

Even protesters complaining about police tactics have been respectful, he said. “Nobody’s been nasty to us,” he said.

Separately, several hundred people chanted “Dump Trump now!” and held signs saying things like “No racism, no fascism, no Trump” as they marched through the streets.

Many were upset with Trump’s stand on immigration, including his proposal to build a wall at the Mexican border and his call for barring Muslims from entering the U.S.

“The people that are supporting him don’t see the real issue,” said Leonel Mejia, a Mexican immigrant who is in the country illegally and has lived in Minnesota since 2002.

“The African-American community, the Latino community and the Native American community are facing the same issues,” he said. “They’re facing economic issues. The people that support Trump are the poorer citizens of the United States. It’s a matter of class, not a matter of race.”

The demonstrators also used the event to protest what they called racist police practices. Several held signs calling for disarming the police, and at one point the crowd broke into a “black lives matter” chant.

Officers on bicycles and Indiana state troopers on convention security duty stood off to the side while a black speaker complained about police mistreatment.

 

MICHAEL HILL
MARK GILLISPIE

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