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Police Will Abide by Ohio's Open Carry Gun Laws at GOP Convention

Cleveland’s police chief says he would prefer that people not bring firearms to the RNC next week — but said it is legal to do so.
The Quicken Loans Arena is covered in signage in preparation for the upcoming Republican National Convention on July 13, 2016, in Cleveland.Gene J. Puskar / AP

Cleveland’s police chief said Wednesday he would prefer that people not bring firearms to the Republican National Convention that kicks off next week — but said it is legal to do so.

"It’s the law in this state and as police chief, I’m bound to uphold the law in this state,” Police Chief Calvin Williams said at a news conference Tuesday.

More than 5,000 police officers are expected to be on hand when the Republican convention begins Monday.

The party’s controversial candidate, Donald Trump, is expected to be nominated at the convention, and the city is bracing for protests.

Three hundred police officers on bikes will be patrolling, and part of their job will be separating potentially hostile groups from one another, a police official confirmed.

There will be two rings of security outside the convention. No guns will be allowed in a secure zone inside the convention site and right outside it, an area controlled by the Secret Service.

In the larger area outside the event, guns will be permitted in accordance with Ohio state law, but other items — including knives, paintball guns, and umbrellas with sharp tips, will be prohibited, officials said.

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The sniper attacks in Dallas which killed 5 police officers have prompted police to reexamine security procedures in Cleveland, Williams said.

"Dallas was a wake-up call for a lot of people," Williams said. He said the police department has made changes, based not just on the Dallas attack but other events going on across the country. He did not go into specifics.

Ohio is an open carry state, and it is not a new development, Williams said. "We've done this before. This is not the first time the city of Cleveland will see people open carry," he said.

Williams said police have made some minor changes to tactics to ensure everyone is safe, including those carrying guns.

"We’ll make sure that people stay within the parameters of what’s allowed and what’s not," ge said.

The director of the Secret Service, Joseph Clancy, told news outlet that police are up to the task.

"They are ready," Clancy told the news organization. "I have met many chiefs and commissioners around the country. And Chief Williams is right up there with the top," Clancy said.

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Tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected to converge on downtown Cleveland. A pro-Trump group, Bikers for Trump, plans to attend and step in if protests become violent.

"We are in a position if need be to stand with them and help protect police," founder Chris Cox told NBC News. "I myself won’t be carrying a gun, but I can’t speak for the rest of the guys — I know many bikers do carry concealed permit."