RNC Open Carriers Rare, Defy Stereotypes

Media expectations of menace, disorder not being met

Jaimes Cambbell and Micah Naziri / Stephen Gutowski
Jaimes Cambbell and Micah Naziri / Stephen Gutowski
July 20, 2016

A pair of men from Ohio carried rifles outside the Republican National Convention on Tuesday to show their opposition to a Donald Trump presidency on Tuesday, putting them among only a handful of people who have displayed firearms near the heavily secured event.

Near Cleveland Public Square and inside the zone designated for RNC protests, Micah Naziri carried an AR-15 chambered in 300 Blackout complete with a short barrel and suppressor slung over his shoulder, and a pair of Glock handguns in a shoulder holster.

The Yellow Springs, Ohio, resident said his interactions with police, protesters, and RNC attendees were cordial, but he said he was unhappy that a Secret Service agent requested to see the ATF registration paperwork required to own a rifle with a barrel under 16 inches long. He said he complied and was allowed to remain in the area.

"This is a protest sign," he said pointing to his rifle, "and the Glocks matched my pants beautifully so I purchased them to wear with this outfit."

"A lot of Republicans, at first, just say, 'Aw man, cool gun,' but I'm not here to exercise a right just to exercise it. This is a protest sign. It is representing militant resistance against fascism."

Naziri said he was protesting "the fascism proposed by Donald Trump." He was most concerned with Trump's remarks on rounding up and deporting those who are in the United States illegally. He complained that many crossing the border illegally are "ancestrally tied to states that were stolen by this government" and were coming for job opportunities.

"He said he would like to round up, in door-to-door police state raids, 11 million plus people," he said.

Naziri was joined by his friend Jaimes Cambbell who also carried an AR-15 slung over his shoulder. "I believe everybody, especially minorities, should exercise their rights," Cambbell, an African-American, said. "This is just a protest sign."

"I personally believe that if you are able to own a gun and carry a gun in whatever state you live in, that you should. If you are not a felon and you are of age, if you can pass a background check, you should be allowed to have a gun. The more people that carry weapons, the less crime that we will have."

However, Cambbell said his motivation for open carrying outside the RNC was opposition to Donald Trump.

"The main point of me coming out here today is that I can't support Donald Trump and any of his fascist, xenophobic rhetoric," he said.

He also described his encounters with police and protesters as "cordial," if not confused. "I think the guns cause a little bit of confusion. I think that people assume that because I have a gun, I must support Trump."

"I haven't had anybody yell or complain about the guns. If anything, I've had more people come up and shake my hand for exercising my constitutional right. On both sides."

The pair did have a contentious exchange with a supporter of Donald Trump as they stood near Public Square. The Trump supporter, who was an African American, and the open carriers had an extended argument about religion, patriotism, and Donald Trump. The back-and-forth was heated but calm.

Naziri and Cambbell are among a small number of people who have decided to open carry firearms at the RNC, as of Wednesday morning. Both men said they were not part of a larger demonstration or group. Cambbell said he had seen "a couple" others open carrying in the hours he had been outside the RNC.

About a dozen open carry protesters, including some Trump supporters, marched the Veterans Memorial Bridge on Monday. That group also reported cordial relationships with the police they said they were there to support.

"We're here to support the police, exercise our Second Amendment," West Ohio Minutemen member Guy Roberts told "The Donald wants the Second to stay, Hillary doesn't want the Second to stay."

The size and temperament of the open carry protests thus far in Cleveland have not neared the predictions many media commentators made in the lead up to the convention. The diversity of open carriers has defied expectations, as well.

"Open carry is apparently a very two-sided thing, because we can’t open carry," Thomas Answeeney, a 25-year-old protester from New York, told ThinkProgress on Sunday. "If anyone here at this demonstration against Trump was openly carrying, we’d be on the fucking floor with cuffs, at best. I think it’s disgusting … It’s always a double standard."

Neither Naziri nor Cambbell were arrested during their anti-Trump demonstration.