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Man armed with rifle stands in downtown Cleveland

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    People gather around the stage as preparations take place at Quicken Loans Arena for the Republican National Convention.

CLEVELAND >> An Ohio man says he decided to visit Cleveland’s Public Square armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun the day before the start of the Republican National Convention to assert his Second Amendment rights.

A group called Northeast Ohio Open Carry had planned a noon rally Sunday in downtown Cleveland, but only 57-year-old Steve Thacker showed up with guns. He drew attention from news media as Cleveland police officers milled nearby and a line of around 60 police bicyclists took a break before pedaling off.

Ohio law allows legal gun owners to openly carry firearms. Thacker says he was trying to make a statement about his rights. He complained that fees and background checks associated with purchasing weapons results in the government “selling back” his privilege to buy and own firearms.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams says it seems “everyone is coming” to the city to exercise their First Amendment rights.

The Republican National Convention starts Monday, and Williams said in a Sunday appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” he expects groups of all stripes to be vocal throughout the four-day convention when reality TV star and businessman Donald Trump presumably will be named the party’s nominee for president.

Williams says he’s hearing that anarchists, separatists, anti-Trump protesters, “everyone is coming to Cleveland to protest or exercise their First Amendment rights.”

He acknowledged Ohio’s open-carry gun law in assuring his force is committed to public safety, and said scenarios like the recent slayings of five Dallas police officers had already been included in police preparations.

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