Several hundred Donald Trump supporters — a few of them openly carrying guns as allowed under Ohio law — gathered for the first major pro-Trump rally of the four-day Republican National Convention.
The ambush killings of police officers earlier this month in Dallas and in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, over the weekend have raised tensions in Cleveland, with the president of the police union asking Ohio governor John Kasich to suspend the law allowing gun owners to carry firearms in plain sight.
Mr Kasich responded that he does not have that authority.
While there was a large police presence downtown and near the convention site, just a few dozen officers on bikes stood watch before the start of the rally being staged along the Cuyahoga River.
Mr Trump’s backers 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.”
There did not appear to be any anti-Trump demonstrators at the rally site.
Joel Ameigh, of Hershey, Pennsylvania, who had a Smith and 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,” said Mr Ameigh.
“We’re not here to intimidate anyone. There are laws against that sort of thing,” he said.
Republicans kicked off their convention to nominate Mr Trump as their White House candidate, while dissident delegates make a last-ditch attempt to deny the front-runner.
True to form, Mr Trump himself provided the first surprise of the week, announcing he was going to the Cleveland convention later last evening to introduce his wife Melania on the first night of speeches.
“I will be there,” he said. “I want to watch. It is going to be very exciting.”
It is an earlier-than-expected arrival for a man who has shown little interest in tradition with his nominating show.
However, the next three days will undeniably be Mr Trump’s moment — a week at the pinnacle of American politics that few could have imagined when the New York billionaire entered the race a year ago.
The line-up of speakers is aimed at showing off the man behind the mogul, his advisers said.
Several family members and friends are expected to speak of his character and reveal a side of Mr Trump that Americans may not know.
Many party leaders and rising stars have steered clear of Cleveland, wary of being linked to the nominee, while others seem intent on keeping a distance.
When House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke to Wisconsin delegates yesterday, he made no mention of Mr Trump.
Mr Kasich, a vanquished Trump rival, plans several public appearances but will not be stepping inside the convention.
Top Trump adviser Paul Manafort called Mr Kasich’s behaviour “petulant” and “embarrassing”.
However, the first act yesterday was a last-gasp effort to stop Mr Trump from sealing the deal.
Delegates were due to vote on the rules that will govern the convention week, and insurgent delegates circulated a petition trying to force a state-by-state vote — a move that could disrupt floor proceedings even if they fail.
Mr Trump’s opponents want to change a rule that requires delegates to vote for the candidate to whom they are committed after state primaries and caucuses.
Mr Trump’s nomination is essentially automatic under the current rules, because he has far more than the 1,237 delegates required to win.
Meanwhile, New Jersey governor Chris Christie says that he is relieved Mr Trump chose a governor to be his running mate and that “we don’t need another big mouth from Congress”.
Mr Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were runners-up to Indiana governor Mike Pence in Trump’s vice presidential search.
Mr Christie did not mention Mr Gingrich when making the “big mouth” comment.
Mr Christie told reporters that he was disappointed he was not chosen, but has “no discontent”.
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