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Bikers for Trump at Republican national convention: ‘we’re part of a movement’

Bikers rally in Cleveland and defend right to carry weapons and protect the police as much as the police protect us

David is worried about my ability to knock him out, despite the fact hes carrying a loaded pistol holstered to his belt.

If you were a bad guy right now and you wanted to punch me in the mouth and knock me out with the so-called knock out game whos there to do anything about it for me? he says, striding toward a large rally supported by his organization, Bikers for Trump, a self-described vigilante collective of veterans and law enforcement supporters from across America.

Although Cleveland is the most fortified city in America at the moment, with thousands of police, FBI and secret service agents securing the Republican national convention, David who wont give me his last name but says he is from Minnesota worries about agitators and thugs who make him feel unsafe.

We [Bikers for Trump] protect the police as much as the police protect us, he claims.

But many officers in Cleveland would likely disagree with Davids assessment. On Sunday, following the fatal shooting of three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the head of the citys largest police union, Steve Loomis, called on Ohio governor John Kasich to temporarily rescind the right to open carry in the city, arguing those who did jeopardized the safety of officers.

Its irresponsible of those folks especially right now to be coming downtown with open carry AR [assault rifle]s or anything else. I couldnt care less if its legal or not, Loomis said.

Following the deaths of five police officers at a protest march in Dallas earlier in the month, local officials expressed frustration that up to 20 marchers had open carried during the protest, leading to widespread confusion during the massacre over how many people had opened fire.

For Bob Posatiere Sr, 61, another Bikers for Trump member and a former Cleveland Metro Park police officer, this frustration should never supersede a constitutional right to carry.

Members of the group Bikers for Trump ride to the rally at Settlers Landing Park on Monday. Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

If thats our right, thats our right, he says, after pointing out that his pistol is holstered out of sight for discretion, and saying it will protect me and him from any unseen threats at this peaceful rally.

Fear of the unknown is a common theme at this very white, very male Citizens for Trump rally, organized by the former Nixon adviser and Trump strategist Roger Stone.

Alex Jones, the noted conspiracy theorist and operator of the Infowars website, repeatedly condemns the liberal media without really articulating what he means. He accuses Hillary Clinton of being a foreign agent for the Chinese and Saudi Arabian government, without citing anything close to evidence.

Were sick and tired of what weve been seeing, thats why we want Donald Trump, Jones screams, as members of the crowd call out that Clinton is a reptile and a bitch and chant Hillary for Prison.

Its powerful, its exhilarating, says Daryl Rembowski, a 52-year-old Bikers for Trump member from Cleveland. He [Jones] is a true American. He stands for truth and hes exposing the lies.

He adds: Were part of a movement, yeah. This is definitely making history.

While the threats may not be visible here, and police arrested just one person on Monday in connection with protests at the RNC, many Bikers for Trump members speaking to the Guardian pointed to one particular group, Black Lives Matter, as a tangible example of the need to remain vigilant.

Despite leaders of the movement, who are credited with igniting a new civil rights movement throughout the US, repeatedly denouncing violence, various Bikers for Trump members described the nebulous organization as a terrorist threat and a hostile group.

None had time for the argument, frequently articulated since the fatal police shooting of African American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, that state violence in America is disproportionately meted out to black people.

I dont know why you people think that cops wake up one day and say well Im going to shoot somebody, says 56-year-old Dave Lenley, who rode all the way from London, Kentucky. Do you realize that ruins that persons life? Aside from the one that got killed, that officers life has been ruined, whether hes black, white, Hispanic or what. They [officers] dont wake up one day and say: I think Im going to shoot me black person.

Had Lenley seen the video of unarmed African American Walter Scott, shot five times from behind as he ran away from white North Charleston officer Michael Slager?

Yes, Lenley said, but added: Why was he running away? The police officer told him to stop. If I tell you to stop, stop.

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