CLEVELAND (CN) — Violence against police, the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the crimes of illegal aliens were central topics on day one of the Republican National Convention, where Donald Trump made his first, brief appearance to introduce his wife Melania.
Day one of the convention, whose slogan is “Make America safe again,” featured an odd lineup of speakers that included soap opera star Antonia Sabato Jr. and former teen idol Scott Baio.
Trump, who came out to Queen’s “We are the Champions,” told the crowd: “Don’t worry, we’re going to win. We’re going to win big.”
Slovenian-born Melania Trump spoke about her path to becoming a U.S. citizen, which she called “the greatest privilege on planet Earth.”
Nearly every speaker condemned the Obama administration as a failure and referred to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign as Obama’s third term.
Speakers repeatedly criticized Obama and Clinton for failing to attribute the recent string of mass shootings in the U.S. to Islamic extremist terrorism.
Parents of victims of crimes allegedly perpetrated by illegal aliens told their tales, as did the family of Brian Terry, a federal agent who was gunned down at the border by a Mexican “rip crew” looking to rob illegal aliens crossing the border. Terry was killed with a gun traced back to the controversial Fast and Furious sting operation run by the Justice Department.
Mark Geist and John Tiegen, two Marines who barely escaped the attack in Benghazi, told their harrowing story for nearly half an hour, describing how they had to rip the armor off of fallen soldiers to check for a pulse, and what each mortar strike felt like.
The heavy and gory stories of people who had lost loved ones overshadowed the breezy speeches of the television stars who spoke.
“It’s been a rough year for the media experts,” Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame told the crowd. “It must be humbling to be so wrong about so much for so long.”
Former “Happy Days” star Scott Baio made an appeal to first-time voters, telling the crowd: “It’s important to know what it means to be an American. It doesn’t mean getting free stuff.”
Baio referred to Hillary Clinton as “a woman who somehow feels entitled to the presidency.”
Throughout the day, Republicans laid out the safety issues facing America — radical Islam, illegal immigration and dangers faced by police — but never lost focus of beating Clinton, their primary objective.
“Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president,” Darryl Glenn, a Colorado county commissioner and candidate for U.S. Senate, told the crowd. “We all know she loves her pantsuits, but we should send her an email and tell her she deserves a bright orange jump suit.”
The party calmed down a bit after a wild afternoon session in which anti-Trump Republicans were denied a rules vote by temporary chairman Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who awkwardly retreated from the stage amid the chaos.
The evening session was more in line with the unity for which the party was hoping.
Milwaukee Sherriff David Clarke was met with warm applause when he told the crowd, “Blue lives matter,” before saluting and leaving the stage.
Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy and his wife were both bubbly when speaking about their eight children and the lessons they teach them: Don’t wake up Mom and Dad on a Saturday morning, don’t lie, and don’t use a private email server hidden in the basement.
Sens. Tom Cotton (Arkansas), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Jeff Sessions (Alabama) all praised Trump, tempering the notion that some in the Republican establishment consider Trump a burden as well as a gift.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani garnered the loudest applause, aside from Trump himself, when he said: “When you call the police to come save you, they don’t ask whether you’re black or white; they come save you.”
Giuliani spoke endearingly of Trump, a fellow New Yorker, describing him as a man who loves all people, “from the top to the bottom to the middle to the side,” despite what the Clinton campaign says about him.
Outside, the Cleveland streets were saturated with well-armored local and federal police, vendors selling overpriced T-shirts, hats and buttons, and thin pockets of protesters from all political persuasions, carefully watched by law enforcement.
“I’m a very strong Trump supporter,” said Carl Tepper, a commercial real estate developer and delegate from Texas. “He was my first choice.”
Tepper said Trump’s tough stance on foreign trade and border control factored into his decision to support the reality television phenom-turned politician.
“Immigration is very big and very important in Texas right now. Essentially, we’re being invaded,” the delegate said.
After Melania Trump’s speech, the convention fizzled out as the final two speakers took the podium, Sen. Ernst and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who spoke as crowds of delegates flooded the exits of the Quicken Loans Arena after the drama of the Trumps’ appearance waned.
Protests outside were isolated and difficult to find among the scores of convention-goers leaving the Public Square and heading to their hotels and bars. Army National Guard members stood behind metal barricades with little to do but watch the surprisingly quiet street corners near the arena.
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