On Tuesday, amid the ongoing Republican National Convention, there was a large protest in downtown Cleveland, full of people with a wide array of beliefs and agendas.
On one side, you had people protesting against police violence and decrying racism. On the other, you had people holding Islamophobic protest signs.
In the middle stood a large number of cops, hoping to keep the peace. There were one or two scuffles, but their goal was more or less accomplished.
Meanwhile, people armed with assault rifles stood at the edge of the crowd, flanked by police on horses. Open carry has been a huge theme and a major focus surrounding the RNC, so this wasn't too surprising.
In the midst of all this, I found two unlikely figures who were both vehemently anti-Trump and open carrying.
The first was Micah Naziri, of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Naziri was wearing a white, knit skullcap and drew the attention of many journalists because of his chosen attire.
Other outlets have dubbed him an "armed Muslim," but when I questioned him about his faith, Naziri stated,
I'm declining to answer specific questions about religion or ethnoreligious background.
Naziri then went on to say he was there to make a statement about the need to reevaluate the Constitution in relation to the rights of minorities.
The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, is pretty good. I think it could… be improved upon. I don't believe it's a divine writ, like some folks seem to. First of all, I think new questions need to be asked. When [the Constitution] was written it was written by slave owners. I think it needs to be reimagined from the perspective of people who truly love freedom for all, and how it could go about protecting the rights of minority groups, whether religious, ethnic racial, etc. or women for that matter. It was certainly not written with women in mind, I think it should be reimagined with those same rights… But that's not going to happen, that's just simply an ideal.
But his stance on open carry was a bit more ambiguous. When asked whether he was there to stand up for open carry rights, he said,
I'm not pro or anti-open carry. I think in general open carry is bad etiquette. I think it's very useful at protests... I think going shopping with an assault rifle is kind of silly. I didn't bring this here to use it, I brought it as a protest sign.
Well, it's certainly a protest sign that draws attention.
In Ohio, the law allows licensed gun owners to wear their weapons in public, which is why there are quite a few hanging around downtown Cleveland.
But Naziri seemed less concerned with gun rights, specifically, and more concerned with tolerance.
When asked if he was voting in this election, he seemed reluctant to offer any specific candidate an endorsement, but he definitely made it clear whom he will not be supporting. He said,
I would strongly encourage people to not vote for Trump.
After meandering through the crowd for a bit longer, I spotted another man open carrying, and what caught my attention was the fact he had a CODEPINK sticker on his clothing. CODEPINK is a women-led, anti-war organization, so I was intrigued by the arguably contradictory notion of carrying an assault rifle while supporting pacificism.
His name was James Campbell, and he said he was open carrying to send a message about what he believes is a double standard when it comes to gun rights in the US.
Campbell, who said he's 22 and has owned a gun since he was 18, told Elite Daily,
I'm open carrying today mainly as a protest. Here in America we seem to have this issue where it's only okay for conservative whites to bear arms. As a black man in America I'm troubled by the amount of brutality, whether it be by the police or average citizens against blacks -- Donald Trump's rhetoric has emboldened that. I think the only way to combat that is to express your rights, especially as a minority group member. If Trump gets what he wants, our rights won't matter... I'm absolutely anti-Trump.
Campbell made it very clear he's strongly anti-Trump, but that doesn't mean he's pro-Hillary. He said,
If I do vote it will be for a third-party candidate; I can't support Hillary, either.
When asked whether he had a preference between Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, Campbell stated,
I'm leaning more toward Jill Stein than Gary Johnson, my only issue with Jill Stein is she is anti-gun.
Finally, I asked about the CODEPINK stinker. James told me someone just slapped it on him, but he also seemed to appreciate the organization's anti-war sentiments. As he explained,
I'm definitely against war... You know, America invading all these countries because our government being bought by corporations and invading countries for resources, not for actual freedoms -- that's a problem.
But the 22-year-old rejected the idea he can't carry a gun and simultaneously be against violent conflict, saying,
I do believe you can be pro-Second Amendment AND anti-war.
When asked whether anyone had given him any trouble for open carrying, Campbell stated,
No, I haven't had any issues with the cops. They were actually quite cordial. When we first walked up they just gave us a list of safety tips.
He said most people were just confused by the fact he was anti-Trump but also open carrying.
So, believe or not, James Campbell is a Millennial minority who's pro-gun rights, anti-Trump, anti-Hillary and possibly pro-Green Party.
This just goes to show the diversity of the US is not just limited to its people but is also reflected in the array of beliefs Americans hold.
It might be cliched advice, but don't judge a book by its cover.