The Republican National Convention kicked off in Cleveland on Monday with Donald Trump positioned to get his party’s presidential nomination and demonstrators protesting his candidacy outside.
Republicans will try to sell the combative businessman to voters as a strong leader who can shield America from the threats of violent crime and Islamist militants.
The weekend killing of three policemen in Baton Rouge overshadowed the first day of the convention, when party officials and Trump allies will make televised speeches to promote what he bills as a tough line on law and order and national security.
Just after banging the gavel to officially start the convention, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus held a moment of silence.
“I’d like to take a moment to recognize the fallen police officers in Baton Rouge, Dallas and elsewhere, the men and women who protect our safety and well-being, who put their lives on the line every day, they are our genuine heroes. We also want to recognize all the families who have lost loved ones during these troubling times. Our nation grieves when we see these awful killings,” Priebus said.
Before the police officers’ deaths in Baton Rouge, an apparently targeted attack by a gunman who may have intended retaliation for police killings of black people, the theme at the convention for Monday was already set as “Make America Safe Again.” Events were to include speakers discussing the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Republicans have long criticized Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time and is now Trump’s Democratic rival for the White House, over her response to the attack.
Trump’s wife, Melania, was also due to speak on Monday night, joined by her husband on stage, as were foreign policy hawk Senator Tom Cotton and retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, a national security adviser.
They were likely to promise that Trump will crack down on Islamic State abroad and toughen up on crime at home if he wins the Nov. 8 election.
Trump lashed out after the killing on Sunday of the police officers in Baton Rouge, nearly two weeks after the fatal police shooting of a black man there and another such death near St. Paul, Minnesota sparked nationwide protests. The Baton Rouge police deaths occurred just days after five policemen were killed in an ambush in Dallas.
“Our country is totally divided and our enemies are watching. We are not looking good, we are not looking smart, we are not looking tough!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Security was extraordinarily tight in Cleveland, with downtown streets lined by concrete traffic dividers and tall metal fences, measures given a new urgency after an attacker drove a truck through a holiday crowd in Nice, France, last week, killing 84 people.
The Cleveland police union called for the suspension during the convention of a state law allowing people to carry firearms openly. But Ohio Governor John Kasich, a one-time rival to Trump, said he was powerless to act despite the heightened security concerns.
Even gun rights advocates are questioning whether people should be allowed to carry rifles and handguns during expected protests at the convention. Trump backers as well as opponents have expressed concerns about the prospect of weapons being carried in open sight around the convention site.
Ohio is among the many states that allow licensed gun owners to carry their weapons in public, and gun rights activists, particularly in Texas, have taken to expressing that right often in large-scale events.
Trump has caused controversy and upset U.S. allies with his plans for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.
Outside the convention arena, protesters held up signs reading “Dump Trump” and chanted “black lives matter.”
But at the convention, the party will portray the New York magnate as a breath of fresh air and a strong leader.
Republicans will also accuse Clinton of being responsible for weakening the United States in a dangerous world during her four years as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state from 2009-2013.
Trump, 70, who has never held elective office, is expected to accept the nomination on Thursday night after being formally chosen on Tuesday. His vice presidential running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, 57, will speak on Wednesday.
Story by Reuters
Clifford Young discusses the Republican National Convention
For more about the Republican National Convention, CCTV America’s Elaine Reyes spoke to Clifford Young, president of U.S. Public Affairs.