This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Cleveland • On the eve of the Republican National Convention, a short distance from where Donald Trump is expected to claim the GOP nomination, a man stood in a park openly carrying a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns.

It was billed as a rally for gun rights, but Steve Thacker of West Hill, Ohio, was the only one publicly displaying his firearms. He was thoroughly outnumbered by police and journalists.

"I'm not going to do anything stupid," he said, with one handgun secured on his camouflage vest and another strapped to his leg.

But what if you're provoked, someone in the crowd asked.

"I'm still pretty good with my hands," the former Marine said.

The fact that Ohio law allows people to openly carry firearms near the convention site has raised the specter of possible violent unrest during the convention, which will draw about 50,000 people to the area, including governors, members of Congress, other high-profile guests and the nominee himself.

Add to that concerns over the racial divide in the country, spurred on by recent shootings of black men and police officers, and the anti-Trump fervor and the Cleveland convention, which begins Monday, has many worried more than at past political gatherings.

Utahn Heather Williamson, an alternate delegate from Saratoga Springs, had considered canceling her trip partly because of concerns about her personal safety.

"You've got a super-volatile environment. You see on the news every day now there are cop shootings, everywhere all over the country," she said after landing in Ohio. "And, you know, Trump hasn't exactly engendered people to love him and respect him. I feel like he's offended every major race there is in some way, so that's concerning."

Even top government officials raise the red flag about the circumstances surrounding the convention, noting the chances for a tinderbox of political and racial divisiveness could find a match in Cleveland.

"I am concerned about the prospect of demonstrations getting out of hand," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told a House committee last week. "I am concerned about the possibility of violence."

FBI Director James Comey agreed.

"Anytime there's a national spotlight on a political event in the United States, there's a risk that groups that aspire to do just that, to engage in acts of domestic terrorism, will be attracted," Comey told the House Committee on Homeland Security, noting it was a threat the FBI is watching "very, very carefully."

"I don't want to talk about particular groups here," he added, "but there is a concern anytime there's an event like this that people from across a spectrum of radical groups will be attracted to it."

Beyond open-carry demonstrations like the one Thacker appeared at, other groups have promised to use the law to their advantage as well.

"If it is an open state to carry, we will exercise our Second Amendment rights because there are other groups threatening to be there that are threatening to do harm to us," Hashim Nzinga, chairman of the New Black Panther Party, told Reuters. "If that state allows us to bear arms, the Panthers and the others who can legally bear arms will bear arms."

On Sunday, as delegates landed at nearby airports and the city prepared to host the four-day gathering, plenty of police were seen strategically placed. Officers from across the country, including some from the Utah Highway Patrol, were bolstering the Cleveland Police Department's numbers.

Utah Republican delegate David Harmer noted that Trump "underthugs" have threatened to intimidate and bully anti-Trump delegates at the convention, so he wouldn't be surprised if clashes broke out.

"Trump attracts, and indeed incites, violence," Harmer said. "It would be an unfortunate irony if anti-Trump protesters were to harm anti-Trump delegates."

Most other Utah delegates surveyed by The Salt Lake Tribune weren't sure there would be violence, and if there was, they planned to stay far away from any incidents.

Former state Rep. Chris Herrod, a Provo delegate, said he believes there will be large-scale protests, but isn't worried. He said he and his family will try to keep a low-profile when they're out in the city.

Alternate delegate David Mallinak, of Ogden, said he's betting there will be "extracurricular" activities at the convention and noted that, because he "can't even take knitting needles into the convention … at least the protesters know they are safe from me."

Convention officials had taken heat for issuing a list of items banned near the convention hall, including drones, canned goods and even tennis balls — but not guns per state law.

In the wake of a Sunday shooting in Baton Rouge, La., where six officers were shot — three of them fatally — the head of the Cleveland police union pleaded for Gov. John Kasich to ban firearms in the county where Cleveland is located.

"He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don't care if it's constitutional or not at this point," Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, told CNN. "They can fight about it after the RNC or they can lift it after the RNC, but I want him to absolutely outlaw open-carry in Cuyahoga County until this RNC is over."

Kasich, according to CNN, said he couldn't just not enforce laws on a whim.

"Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested," he said.

Robert Gehrke contributed to this story.