Election 2016

Who Are the Guys Marching Outside the RNC With Assault Rifles?

West Ohio Minutemen, a self-described "militia," marched around Cleveland during the Republican National Convention

Photo Credit: Screenshot / YouTube

A dozen armed white men marched around outside the Republican National Convention in downtown Cleveland on Monday afternoon.

Salon spoke with the men, who call themselves the West Ohio Minutemen.

Tim Alexander, 32, identified the group as a right-wing “militia,” and said they are from Mercer County, Ohio.

“We’re tired of the way the country’s going,” Alexander explained.

He condemned “the over-reaching government.” When asked what he meant by that, Alexander claimed that the U.S. government is using mass shootings to impose harsh gun control measures — although none have yet been passed.

Alexander said he opposes all gun laws.

When asked what the militia does, he said they work together to perform community service. The group often helps veterans, he noted, participating in projects such as building homes for disabled veterans.

“We’re just trying to help the community,” Alexander said.

The men were armed with what they identified as AR-15, AK-47 and G3 assault rifles.

Open-carry laws in Ohio permit citizens to walk around with these guns.

Dan Stevenson, 35, called himself a “founding father” of the West Ohio Minutemen. He said the group was started 1.5 years ago.

“We are defending freedom,” Stevenson told Salon. When asked what kind of freedom, he replied, “Freedom of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”

At this point, a man who was giving orders and appeared to be leading the group told the other minutemen to stop talking to the press.

Salon asked the man if he was the leader. He merely replied, “We are all leaders,” and did not comment further.

Most of the militia members refused to speak to the media after that, but a man who only gave his first name, Allen, said he had joined the group because “the country’s falling apart.”

Allen condemned the government and the education system, which he said were brainwashing Americans.

“We’re working with the community,” he echoed, and left it at that.

Numerous bystanders shouted at the militia as it marched downtown.

Salon spoke to a protester who declined to give his name. He called the armed men “crazy right-wingers” and felt they were walking around “to intimidate protesters.”

After the event, the militia posted on its Facebook page a message of support for the Cleveland police, Secret Service and Cleveland sheriffs. The minutemen thanked the authorities for “shaking our hands with respect.”

On its website, the militia says its “mission is to protect our rights, our family’s, and our land [sic].”

On the group’s Facebook page, it often posts right-wing memes. One reads, “Our country is in a lot of trouble when we refuse to profile terrorists, but are willing to profile patriots.”

Another photo they posted shows the symbol for the 2016 RNC with a large assault rifle in the background.

A meme the militia posted on July 16 falsely claims, “Black Lives Matter ‘protesters’ can riot, call death to cops, steal, burn and get paid to do it.”

Watch a video of the minutemen below:

Posted by West Ohio Minutemen on Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet's Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

 

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