By Angela Moon
(Reuters) – A Milwaukee-based immigrants rights group canceled plans to take children to demonstrations outside the Republican National Convention, which starts on Monday, citing fears of violence after last week’s shootings in Dallas.
Voces de la Frontera (Voices from the Border) typically includes children in its marches, seeking to humanize the debate over immigration policy, but opted against that in Cleveland because “things can escalate,” group member Daniel Gutierrez said.
Donald Trump is expected to officially become the Republican candidate for president at the convention, which runs from Monday to Thursday, when myriad protest groups from around the country are expected to converge on Cleveland.
Protests at Trump campaign events have turned volatile, and tensions could be heightened by the presence of citizens carrying firearms.
Ohio gun laws will allow people to openly carry firearms at the protests, while more innocuous items such as tennis balls, umbrellas with steel points and water guns will be prohibited.
Police said the presence of openly carried weapons complicated their job at the Dallas protest shootings, when a former U.S. Army reservist shot dead five police officers, seeking revenge for police killings of black men.
About 45 members of Voces de la Frontera plan to participate in a Coalition to Stop Trump rally on Monday, said Gutierrez, adding that he was unafraid that others may bring guns.
“If anything comes up that puts our lives at risk, we definitely are not going to stand there. If anything breaks out, just remove ourselves from there. Go to a safe location,” Gutierrez said.
Brad Sigal, a spokesman for the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, said his organization was training marshals to keep the group safe, primarily by steering members clear of potential confrontations.
About 50 of its members would travel to Cleveland, he said.
“There will be a lot of police there, there may be counterprotests, but we’re there to get our message out and that’s what we’re going to do,” Sigal said. “We’re aware of the situation and preparing for it.”
Rustbelt Medics, a group of street medics that volunteers first aid at political events, has been conducting medical training in preparation for the convention. Gloria Tavera, a medical student and street medic with the group, says Rustbelt Medics will have trained about 50 people prior to the convention.
“Part of the training definitely involves what happens when people get hit by rubber bullets,” Tavera said.
(Additional reporting by Amy Tennery and Tom Polansek; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Andrew Hay)