First day saw attacks on Hillary Clinton and anti-Trump delegates rebuffed.

Republicans in Cleveland have weaved savage attacks on Hillary Clinton into testimonials to Donald Trump's compassion, strength and readiness to be commander-in-chief in the face of terrorist attacks on the homeland and around the world.

After the Republican National Convention got off to a chaotic start because of an afternoon procedural skirmish, Trump made a splashy debut on the convention stage to introduce his wife, Melania, whose speech was a highlight of an otherwise uneven evening.

"I have been with Donald for 18 years, and I have been aware of his love for this country since we first met," she said. "He never had a hidden agenda when it comes to his patriotism because, like me, he loves his country very much."

But minutes after she finished, the Quicken Loans Arena began emptying out as retired Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn delivered a rambling and unfocused speech that dragged on for nearly half an hour.


The result: Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, poised to deliver a breakout performance, could not take the stage until well after prime time and addressed a mostly empty arena.

"Hillary Clinton has failed to stop the expansion of terrorism," Ernst said, adding: "She is entirely unfit to serve as our nation's commander-in-chief."

The Trumps were the stars of the show. Donald strode onto the convention stage, walking out in silhouette to Queen's anthem, We Are the Champions.

"We're going to win so big," the candidate vowed, as he introduced his wife, Melania, for her keynote address.

A former fashion model born in Slovenia, Melania Trump has shied away from public speaking. Yesterday she spoke with composure and movingly talked about her husband's love of family and country.

"Donald thinks big, which is especially important when considering the presidency of the United States," she said. "No room for small thinking. No room for small results. Donald gets things done."

Melania Trump sought to broaden her husband's appeal to the general population, including groups that have been outright hostile to his candidacy, saying that love binds their family and that together they would bring compassion to the White House.

"Donald intends to represent all the people, not just some of the people," she said. "That includes Christians and Jews and Muslims. It includes Hispanics and African Americans and Asians and the poor and the middle class."

Afterward, Donald Trump returned to the stage, kissed his wife and (pictured) pointed at her with his signature gesture, as if to show her off to the roaring crowd.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani gave one of the night's most impassioned addresses, strongly defending Trump, whom he has known for decades.

"What I did for New York, Donald Trump will do for America," said Giuliani, who steered his city through the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Many of the earlier speakers delivered hard-edged remarks seemingly designed to play to Trump's base supporters. A trio of speakers railed against undocumented immigrants - whom they repeatedly called "illegal aliens" - for killing their loved ones and argued that only Trump could keep the country safe.

"My son's life was stolen at the hands of an illegal alien," said Mary Ann Mendoza, mother of fallen police Sergeant Brandon Mendoza. "It's time we had an administration that cares more about Americans than about illegals. A vote for Hillary is putting all our children's lives at risk."

Others who took the stage in prime time here in Cleveland aimed at Clinton.

Patricia Smith, whose son Sean died in the 2012 terrorist attacks on a US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, reduced convention delegates to tears with an emotional address about her son's death - which she said she blames on Clinton, the-then Secretary of State.

"I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son," Smith said. She pointed out a delegate holding up a "Hillary for Prison" sign and said, "That's right - Hillary for prison. She deserves to be in stripes."

Smith served as the opening act in a series of presentations about Clinton's handling of the Benghazi attacks, the subject of many congressional and other investigations. Giuliani accused her of "dereliction of duty" in Benghazi.

"She loves her pantsuits," said Darryl Glenn, a GOP Senate candidate in Colorado. "But we should send her an e-mail and tell her that she deserves a bright orange jumpsuit."

A number of speakers of colour echoed Trump's core themes of grievance, including some racial provocations. "Frankly, somebody with a nice tan needs to say this: All lives matter," said Glenn, who is black. David Clarke, the Milwaukee County sheriff, who also is African American, cried out "Blue lives matter in America". His call of support for law enforcement officers was received with chants of "USA! USA! USA!" in the convention hall. Clarke went on to criticise the Black Lives Matter movement.

During the convention's earlier proceedings, anti-Trump forces expressed vocal dissent from the convention floor, though party officials snuffed out attempts to slow Trump's march to the presidential nomination. A renegade group of delegates seeking to force a rules vote that would have embarrassed Trump fell short. They were hoping to register disapproval of new party rules that favour Trump, but a handful of state delegations backed out under pressure from party leaders.

Protesters mop up the irony

Brooklyn residents Jonny Santos, Tommy Noonan and Sam Levison drove the Trump Hut to Cleveland in a U-Haul. Photo / Washington Post, Dan Zak
Brooklyn residents Jonny Santos, Tommy Noonan and Sam Levison drove the Trump Hut to Cleveland in a U-Haul. Photo / Washington Post, Dan Zak

Protesting can be such a declasse affair: the dirt, the sweat, the blood. The lack of gold and marble.

The Trump Hut was designed to bring luxury to activism. It sits outside a Masonic temple in downtown Cleveland, far from the action of the Republican National Convention, but it makes an eye-catching satirical point. And that point is ... not entirely clear at first.

"Some people asked if we were pro-Trump," says Tommy Noonan, 37, who works for an advertising-strategy agency in Brooklyn. "Some people got the joke automatically."

The joke, of course, is that the Trump Hut is a wigwam in the style of the candidate's hair with, as its minders call it, "the finest Oaxacan straw". It's outfitted with a "plush" rug; champagne is served inside.

Noonan, his co-worker Douglas Cameron and Mexican-born artist Roxana Casillas created the hut to illustrate the absurdity, as they see it, of the businessman's candidacy. They drove it from Brooklyn.

"It's difficult to move but it's not incredibly heavy," says Sam Levison, 25, who works with Noonan and Cameron.

Says Noonan: "It's as clumsy as Trump's hair."