The New Black Panther Party announced today that it planned to carry guns at next week's United States Republican Party convention.

It's a a sign of the racial tension that is roiling the US, as President Barack Obama spoke in Dallas to pay tribute to five white policemen killed by a black gunman.

The party (NBPP) has surged to the forefront of America's consciousness after police killed two black men, and the retaliatory murder of five white policemen in the space of three days last week.

Formed in Dallas, Texas, in 1989, it is not an official successor to the Black Panther Party of the 1960s, but embraces the same ideology.


On Sunday (NZT) gun-wielding NBPP members paraded through the streets of Baton Rouge, Louisiana to protest against the killing of Alton Sterling, shot after an altercation outside a convenience store.

A reporter for Baton Rouge's The Advocate, Bryn Stole, captured the protest march and the police response on video and posted it on Twitter.

"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," said Hashim Nzinga, chairman of the New Black Panther Party.

"If that state allows us to bear arms, the Panthers and the others who can legally bear arms will bear arms."

Ohio, which is hosting the Republican National Convention (RNC), permits the open carrying of weapons.

Nzinga said he expected several hundred NBPP members to attend the convention, in Cleveland.

Another group, Oath Keepers, comprised of current and former members of the military have shown up at other tense events heavily armed, and also say they plan to carry weapons into Cleveland.

Cleveland officials have said there will be increased security during the Republican gathering, with resources from city, state and federal authorities.

Within the convention area, the US Secret Service will set up a smaller perimeter near the conference centre, which will have stricter security and prohibit guns.

Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, told theNew York Times he strongly supported citizens' rights to bear arms, but urged people not to take their guns near Cleveland's downtown area during the convention.

The last thing in the world we need is anybody walking around here with AR-15s strapped to their back.


"And the absolute tragedy in Dallas is proof positive that we just cannot allow that to happen," he said.

I would really just beg these folks, just leave your guns at home. Come, say whatever it is that you want to say, make whatever point it is that you want to make, but it's going to be very, very difficult to deal with the RNC as it is.


Eric Pucillo, the vice president of Ohio Carry, a gun-rights group based in Kent, Ohio, said he understood Loomis' concerns, but stressed that people could not be legally prevented from carrying their guns downtown.

Louisiana, like Ohio, permits "open carry".

In Baton Rouge at the weekend, a member of the NBPP with a rifle slung over his shoulder was confronted by a police officer.

The NBPP member insisted he had the right to carry his weapon. The officer replied that that was true - but he did not have the right to walk down the middle of the road and block the highway.

And in this feverish atmosphere, Obama walked a tightrope between supporting police and sympathising with black protesters as he flew into Dallas in an attempt to heal a divided nation.

US President Barack Obama and former president George W Bush shake hands as first lady Michelle Obama, and Laura Bush (left) stand by at the Dallas memorial service. Photo / AP
US President Barack Obama and former president George W Bush shake hands as first lady Michelle Obama, and Laura Bush (left) stand by at the Dallas memorial service. Photo / AP

It was the 11th time during his presidency that Obama has taken on the role of "Consoler-in-chief" after a mass shooting.

On this occasion Micah Johnson, 25, a black power activist and former soldier, murdered five police officers and injured nine more when he opened fire on Friday (NZT).

The president declared it a "hate crime" comparable to the killing of nine black people in a church by white supremacist Dylann Roof last year.

Johnson was motivated by the recent fatal police shootings of two black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, which sparked days of nationwide protests and America's biggest debate over race since the 1960s.

Obama later spoke at a private memorial service for the officers alongside former president George W. Bush, who lives in Dallas. He was also due to meet privately with the officers' families and give "some measure of comfort", the White House said.

Some police officials have accused Obama of fuelling division by being insufficiently supportive of them.

William Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organisations, said there was a "war on cops" and Obama was the "Neville Chamberlain of this war". Obama met for two hours with senior police officials, including Johnson, in Washington before heading to Dallas.

The President told them he was open to allowing police forces to buy more military surplus equipment from the Pentagon like armoured vehicles and grenade launchers. He also vowed to act as an intermediary between police and protesters, saying: "I'm your best hope."

Dallas Police chief David Brown sounded exasperated as he urged politicians in Washington to make progress on gun control.

He said: "Both sides are entrenched in their positions. Do your job. We're doing ours. We're putting our lives on the line. The other aspects of government need to step up and help us."

Brown, who has emerged from the tragedy as a nationally respected figure, also urged protesters to become police officers.

He said: "Become part of the solution. Serve your communities. We're hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in.

"We'll put you in your neighbourhood and help you resolve some of the problems you're protesting about."

Brown said the Dallas police force would not handle security for Obama's visit because it was "fatigued" and he "didn't want something to go wrong". A neighbouring force from Arlington, Texas was drafted in instead.

Many people in Texas, a strongly Republican state, were unreceptive to Obama's visit.

At a gun show near Dallas weapons seller Jim Chase said: "The police are over-stretched as it is dealing with funerals and overtime. Tensions are too high."