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Trump looks to shore up campaign at Republican National Convention opening

Timothy A. Clary, AFP | Staff on the stage at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on July 17, 2016, amid preparations for the Republican National Convention

The Republican convention kicks off in Cleveland, Ohio on Monday with a one-two punch of law-and-order tough-talk, and Donald Trump’s wife playing character witness as the businessman seeks to lock up his presidential nomination.


Melania Trump, a Slovenian-born former model, will headline the opening night of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which takes place against a backdrop of fear over racial violence and unrest abroad.

A spate of race-tinged shootings – including the killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Sunday – has put the country on edge, even raising questions over whether people should be allowed to carry rifles and handguns during the convention.

Ohio is among the states that allow licensed gun owners to carry their weapons in public.

Meanwhile, attacks overseas, most recently in the southern French city of Nice, and an attempted coup in Turkey, have only compounded security fears.

President Barack Obama has urged Americans to temper their words and show stronger common resolve, but Trump is instead highlighting divisions.

“We are TRYING to fight ISIS, and now our own people are killing our police,” Trump tweeted shortly after the Baton Rogue shooting, referring to the Islamic State (IS) group. “Our country is divided and out of control. The world is watching.”

On the campaign trail, Trump has sought to portray himself as a sheriff who can fix things.

He claims that the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, should be jailed for using a private email server to handle sensitive government documents, something the FBI said was careless but not criminal.

On Monday Trump will also call on retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and tough-talking Senator Joni Ernst as convention speakers to back up his point.

Divided GOP

Of more immediate concern for Trump, however, is a split among Republicans.

The reality TV star’s unorthodox style and populist messages have left the party more divided than it has been in a generation.

“Almost up to the very last minute there have been attempts by high-ranking Republicans to somehow stop the Donald Trump bandwagon, but it has now arrived,” FRANCE 24’s Philip Crowther reported from Cleveland.

Melania Trump, along with the candidate’s son and daughters, will all be rolled out at the convention in an attempt to humanise the candidate.

Polls show that Trump struggles badly with moderate voters, and his campaign will want to project a more positive image to the general electorate.

Trump’s choice of Indiana governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate could help shore up his position among conservatives, although the real estate billionaire seemed tepid about his decision.

In a remarkable first joint appearance on Saturday, Trump eventually got around to taking about Pence and explained why he was picked, in less than enthusiastic terms.

“One of the reasons is party unity, so many people have said, ‘party unity.’ Because I’m an outsider,” he said.

Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort insisted that there was unity. “This is a Trump convention. The party is united,” he said. “It’s a few people who are holding up and they don’t reflect anything other than their personal opinion.”

Inside the halls it remains to be seen if the “Never Trump” camp will make itself heard.

Outside, however, law enforcement have braced for potentially violent demonstrations. In preparation for the convention, the streets of Cleveland have been lined with concrete barriers, while the city has taken out $50 million in protest insurance.

“We have policies in place for mass arrests through our prosecutor’s office, our clerk’s office and our court system,” Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams told reporters.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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