The New Black Panther Party has vowed to carry firearms at the Republican Party convention to be held in Cleveland next week. Several hundred members of the group are expected to attend protests at the convention.
Hashim Nzinga, chairman of the party said: "If it is an open state to carry, we will exercise our second amendment rights because there are other groups threatening to be there that are threatening to do harm to us."
He continued: "If that state allows us to bear arms, the Panthers and the others who can legally bear arms will bear arms." Ohio, which is hosting the Republican convention permits the open carrying of weapons.
Nzinga says that he expects several hundred members to join a black unity rally that is scheduled to start on Thursday [14 July] through to at least Sunday. "We are there to protect ... [the black unity] event. We are not trying to do anything else. We are going to carry out some of these great legal rights we have — to assemble, to protest and [to exercise] freedom of speech," he said.
He said he and the Panthers plan to leave Cleveland on Sunday, the day before the convention starts, Reuters reports. The 2016 Republican convention will choose the party's nominee for the president of the US and the vice president. It will be held on 18-21 July. Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee for the Republicans.
The New Black Panther Party was formed in Dallas, Texas in 1989. It is however not the official successor to the Black Panther Party of the 1960s, although it does hold to the same ideology. The founding members of the 1960s Black Panther Party have denounced the New Black Panther Party as racist.
Another group, Oath Keepers have also said they plan to carry weapons into Cleveland. The group comprises of current and former members of the military and have made appearances in other events heavily armed.
Increased security at Republican convention
Cleveland officials, according to The Telegraph, that there will be increased security during the Republican gathering, drawing resources from the city, state and federal authorities. Within the convention area itself, the Secret Service will set up a smaller perimeter near the conference centre itself, which will have stricter security and prohibit guns.
Stephen Loomis, the President of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association told the New York Times that he strongly supported citizens' rights to bear arms but urged them not to take their guns anywhere near Cleveland's downtown during the convention.
"The last thing in the world we need is anybody walking around here with AR-15s strapped to their back. And the absolute tragedy in Dallas is proof positive that we just cannot allow that to happen. I would really just beg these folks, just leave your guns at home."
"Come, say whatever it is that you want to say, make whatever point it is that you want to make, but it's going to be very, very difficult to deal with the RNC [Republican National Convention] as it is," Loomis said.