CLEVELAND (AP) — Several hundred Donald Trump supporters and opponents held rallies a half-mile apart as the four-day Republican National Convention opened on Monday with tensions running high among police 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 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.”
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. We’re not here to intimidate anyone. There are laws against that sort of thing,” he said.
The ambush killings of police officers earlier this month in Dallas and in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, over the weekend have heightened fears in Cleveland, with 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 doesn’t have that authority.
Separately, several hundred people chanted “Dump Trump now” while marching to another rally. Many demonstrators were upset with the Republican presidential candidate’s stand against illegal immigration.
“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.
Trump’s campaign manager says that political disruption at the Republican National Convention could help the presumptive GOP nominee.
Paul Manafort says that’s because such disruption will show a lawlessness and a lack of respect for political discourse that has turned off Trump supporters.
Speaking Monday at a Bloomberg Politics breakfast for reporters, Manafort likened the impact of disruption on images of protesters making it difficult for Trump to get into one of his own events in California earlier in the year.
Manafort says people saw that and said, “‘This is not an America I want.’”
He says that while protests won’t disrupt Trump’s message inside the hall, if it gets a lot of coverage, it probably will help the campaign.
No denying Trump
Members of the GOP convention’s rules committee say there will be no changes that could deny the Republican nomination to Donald Trump.
There are still efforts to force a state-by-state roll call on the rules for the convention. Such a maneuver could draw out the process and disrupt the flow of the convention. But it won’t change the outcome.
“The war is over, Donald Trump will be the nominee,” said Bruce Ash, an Arizona delegate who sits on the rules committee.
Dissident delegates want to change the rules to allow them to vote their conscience. Under current rules, they must vote for the candidate who won them.
Newt blasts Bushes
Newt Gingrich says the Bush family is behaving “childishly” for skipping this week’s Republican National Convention.
In a Monday morning interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” at the RNC site in Cleveland, the former GOP House speaker said “the Republican party has been awfully good to the Bushes and they’re showing remarkably little gratitude.”
He says the family needs to “get over” former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s loss to presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump in the primary race.
Gingrich also says he’s not disappointed that he was passed over by Trump for the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket in favor of Indiana Governor Mike Pence. He says if the job is to court support from “regular Republicans,” then Pence “will do a much better job.”
Christie says he’s relieved
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says that he’s relieved Donald Trump chose a governor to be his running mate and that “we don’t need another big mouth from Congress.”
Christie told a group of Michigan Republicans gathered in Ohio Monday that Trump needed someone with him who has governed.
Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were runners-up to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence in Trump’s vice presidential search. Christie didn’t mention Gingrich when making the “big mouth” comment.
Christie told reporters Sunday that he was disappointed he wasn’t chosen, but has “no discontent.”
Speaking at a hotel outside of Cleveland, Christie told the Michigan delegation that the GOP needs to come together to defeat Hillary Clinton.
Republicans are delicately thinking of the 2020 presidential campaign before Donald Trump even accepts the 2016 GOP presidential nomination in Cleveland.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton didn’t speak of the next presidential campaign during an address to about 100 Republican activists at a downtown convention center as the GOP convention opened. But some delegates present said they heard a potential 2020 candidate speaking.
Jane Page of Aiken, South Carolina, said the group is “really good at identifying candidates four, even six years out,” and added that Cotton, a freshman senator, is “impressive.”
Cotton, a 37-year-old former U.S. House member and combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, railed on Democratic President Barack Obama’s national security policies, and touted a more aggressive military policy.