'Leave your guns at home,' Cleveland police implore as they prep for the RNC
As the Republican National Convention draws closer, city and federal officials prepare for clashes between Trump supporters and protesters.
With the Republican National Convention (RNC) less than a week away, city and federal officials say security forces are prepared for a variety of worst-case scenarios.
The city of Cleveland expects 50,000 visitors next week, with many belonging to activist groups both for and against Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.
Tensions will likely be heightened by a string of police-related deaths last week: first, the deaths of two black men at the hands of police on Tuesday and Wednesday; then, the shooting of twelve officers, five of whom were killed, by a gunman at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas on Thursday. With comparisons being drawn to civil unrest in the 1960s, convention organizers and law enforcement are taking steps to ensure that protests expected at the coming Republican convention do not reach the level of the chaos seen at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Authorities do not anticipate a serious security threat, says US Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, but are prepared for similar scenarios nonetheless.
"You look at snipers, you look at mass attacks, you look at protest groups large and small," he told USA Today. "You look at any possibility that's out there."
The city of Cleveland was also given a $50 million federal grant to boost security, as is allotted to all convention hosts. About half of that money is believed to have gone toward an order for 2,000 batons and riot armor for officers, among other things, CNN Money reports.
At the same time, Cleveland's hospitals are preparing for medical emergencies by holding off on elective surgeries, asking trauma surgeons to defer vacations during the convention, and stockpiling enough medical equipment to last four days without resupply, according to a report by Stat News.
This year's RNC marks the first time a national political convention will be hosted by a city whose police department is currently under federal oversight by the Department of Justice. The city's police department was cited in 2014 for "a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force" following a series of deadly police shootings of young black people, including 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
"I feel like we're doing the right things and I feel the community recognizes that, and we've been receiving kudos and acknowledgment, so I'm just hopeful that something doesn't happen during this RNC that's going to cause that to really be a setback to the momentum that we're enjoying," City Councilman and Public Safety Committee chair Matt Zone told CNN.
Weapons of any kind are not permitted inside the Quicken Loans Arena, where Republican delegates will gather. Open-carry gun laws in Ohio, however, allow people to openly hold live firearms in the area surrounding the convention, further complicating matters of security.
One Trump support group, "Bikers for Trump," told CNN that the streets of Cleveland could turn into "the O.K. Corral."
"We're anticipating a victory dance, but it sounds like there's a lot of agitators and a lot of troublemakers coming to town," said Chris Cox, a spokesman for the group. "What happens remains to be seen, but you can definitely count on the Bikers for Trump standing with the police department in the event they need it."
City authorities urge all attendees and protesters to leave any weapons at home, regardless of their legal right to bring them along, saying that throwing guns into the mix will create a more agitated environment and make it harder for officers to keep everyone safe.
"The last thing in the world we need is anybody walking around here with AR-15s strapped to their back," Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, told The New York Times. "And the absolute tragedy in Dallas is proof positive that we just cannot allow that to happen. I would really just beg these folks, just leave your guns at home. Come, say whatever it is that you want to say, make whatever point it is that you want to make, but it’s going to be very, very difficult to deal with the RNC as it is."