A group of white nationalists and skinheads who held a rally in Sacramento over the weekend where at least five people were stabbed plans to show up at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next month to “make sure that the Donald Trump supporters are defended.”
The violent clash at the California state Capitol accentuates concerns about the Republican National Convention, with political tensions high and thousands of pro- and anti-Trump protesters expected to descend on Cleveland.
“I think everybody is concerned about the potential for violence at the convention,” said Ryan Lenz, senior writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremists and hate groups.
Sunday’s mayhem in Sacramento began as the white nationalist group Traditionalist Worker Party, along with the Golden State Skinheads, were setting up for a state Capitol rally the group characterized as a response to aggression against supporters of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Trump.
Brawls quickly erupted between the group of fewer than 30 skinheads and the estimated hundreds of anti-fascist protesters that left at least 10 people injured. Police have made no arrests.
Traditionalist Worker Party spokesman Matt Parrott, who blamed the anti-fascists for the riot, said about 30 members of his group would come to Cleveland.
“We’re essentially just going to show up and make sure that the Donald Trump supporters are defended from the leftist thugs,” he said.
Parrott said he expected Cleveland police to largely prevent violence with heavy security, although “there might be a couple of isolated skirmishes.”
“You’re going to have a relatively civil event where you’re going to have the leftists protesting Trump and you’re going to have us arguing up against the leftists,” he predicted. “And you’re going to have the police there ensuring that you’re going to have a first world situation and not some sort of ‘Gangs of New York’ knife fight.”
City of Cleveland spokesman Dan Williams said the city had a “robust plan” for security during the convention.
Lenz, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said it was a “wild card” whether violence would erupt. He described the head of the Traditionalist Worker Party, Matthew Heimbach, as an ascendant leader of the white racist movement and “the new face of hate.” A video shows Heimbach shoving a female African-American protester at a Trump rally in March in Kentucky.
Cleveland has designated a protest parade route that’s a third of a mile from the convention site, leading to complaints from groups planning to hold protests that they won’t be seen or heard.
“Anybody that wants to come to the city and let their voice be heard in a lawful manner, we’re here to assist them,” City of Cleveland Assistant Police Chief Edward Tomba said last month. “Anybody that goes sideways and is not following the law, there’s going to be consequences. . . . It’s going to be swift and it’s going to be very professional, and I can assure you of that.”