An assortment of gun fanatics, anti-Islamists and Trump lovers and haters combined with heavy police numbers and demonstrators from across America to mark the start of the Republican National Convention today.
Gun-toting men exercising their rights under the Second Amendment and making their point showed off their weapons while supporters of civil rights campaigners group Black Lives Matters gathered in their hundreds close by.
Thousands of police personnel were drafted in from as far as California and Indiana to try and prevent trouble with the advice from senior officers to be ‘especially cautious’ against the threat of sniper fire.
The open-carry activists defied a plea by the Cleveland police patrolmen’s union for no guns in the vicinity of the RNC.
The union wrote to Ohio Governor John Kasich asking him to temporarily suspend the state’s open carry laws for the four-day convention fell on deaf ears.
However Kasich, who helped create the state’s open-carry law, said he could not do so because he did not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws.
The result was the emergence of several people openly showing off their weapons despite the heightened fears of violence following the murder yesterday of three police officers in Baton Rouge and the killing of two black men by officers in Louisiana and Minnesota the week before.
One man Jesse Rodriguez, 26, of Lakewood, Ohio, slung his AK-101 rifle – a variant of the AK-47 assault rifle – over his shoulder and walked into the main square outside the Quicken Loans Arena.
Asked why he had chosen to bring his weapon to the area, he said: ‘Because I can.
‘It’s my right under the Second Amendment and I am carrying that out right now.’
He denied that his action could enflame tensions created by the police murders and the shootings of black men which has angered police unions and civil rights supporters.
‘I ain’t threatening no one. I have got ammunition but my gun isn’t loaded and I only use it for target practice. I’ve been keen on guns since the age of five.’
Rodriguez added: ‘There is no license required to carry a gun openly and I bought this probably two years ago for $500.
‘If you wanna know something really cool about the United States… I bought this on the internet.
‘That is amazing because if you can trust your citizens to do that it is hugely important. It is not the state’s job to consider whether you are trustworthy or not. It is about whether or not you will commit a crime.
‘I think as a standard we should be trusted to own firearms. I just like target shooting.’
He said he had walked into the area to show off his weapon at the RNC to make his point about the Second Amendment.
‘I think it is important to own guns because basically it removes force from the equation,’ he said.
‘If you see somebody on the street and you have a firearm they can no longer coerce you into behaving in a particular way.
‘If somebody wanted my wallet, I could say ‘No’. If they were bigger or stronger than me I could still say ‘No’ and physical contact would be out of the equaton.
‘An 80-year-old woman could be on the same safe playing field.’
Police watched Rodriguez roam through crowds and looked away as he became the center of attention.
One officer told Daily Mail Online: ‘It is his right. If he acts in a way which is threatening or appears to be trying to shoot with it…then we’ll deal with it.’
This article originally appeared on the Daily Mail.