CLEVELAND — On July 22, 1796, Moses Cleaveland arrived at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River and determined that the land adjacent would be the capital of a new territory.
On July 18, 2016, Alex Jones stood in the same spot screaming “Hillary for Prison” at the top of his lungs.
On the first day of the Republican National Convention, the conspiracy theorist and Infowars radio host was nearing the end of a near 15-minute tirade, his hair swaying with the gentle breeze, as he was met by an unlikely foe.
A group of men blowing shofars announced the arrival of comedian Eric Andre, who trudged through the crowd holding a microphone attached to what appeared to be a mile-long stick. By the time he waded to the front, with interjections of Jones referring to him as a “Daily Show guy,” he was invited onstage so that the world could watch as he was humiliated by Jones’ supreme knowledge.
“I’m not on The Daily Show. I’m on MySpace,” Andre said into the microphone.
“You seem like you’re upset,” Jones said in response.
“I want you to have sex with my wife,” Andre said silencing the crowd.
This was only five minutes of a marathon event dubbed the “America First” rally, organized by the group Citizens for Trump as a means of celebrating the coronation of their king: Donald J. Trump. And it many ways it was a more welcoming, and perhaps representative environment, of supporters than the delegates just a 15-minute walk away who were still searching for ways to part with their inevitable standard-bearer.
The day’s proceedings began with a gathering of the Bikers for Trump, an organization led by South Carolinian Chris Cox who previously told The Daily Beast that the group was “not looking for a fight, but at the same time, if someone starts one, we won’t back down.”
Among the vehicles was a massive Ford truck that had been customized to look like something from the set of “Mad Max.” On a sheet of metal bolstered to the front of the car was the word “TRUMP” plastered on in a bright shade of red.
“The real troublemakers are here,” Tricia Cunningham, a self-described Tea Party conservative who played host for the rally said as the bikers marched up a hill, like wayward soldiers of the Revolutionary War, to the bank of river where the event was taking place.
Among the tattooed, grizzly men in leather was Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera, who mugged for selfies, as the crowd booed his name. Cox, the soft-spoken leader of the outfit, explained that the organization was so patriotic and so Trump-supportive because many of the bikers were veterans.
“We got thousands of bikers in town. If there are problems, we'll be the first to tell the police," Cox said to cheers.
The crowd of a few hundred spread themselves out on a grassy hill looking down at the onslaught of speakers, each one more wild than the one before. There were some creative musical interludes including a performance of an original song entitled "Make America Great Again/Political Correctness,” written by a 16-year-old recent Russian immigrant who was wearing a shirt with the cover of “The Clintons’ War on Women,” written by one of the later speakers and an ex-Trump adviser Roger Stone.
One woman with a “WANTED Hillary for Prison” sign swayed on the grass as the original work blasted through the speakers.
The only politician who spoke was Kelli Ward, an Arizona State Representative who is attempting to primary Senator John McCain.
“I, for one, am ready to mix the mortar to fix the border,” she proclaimed, raising a yellow blazer-clad arm in the air.
As Jones made it to the stage about two hours into the rally, the crowd, many decked out in Infowars gear (some with holstered guns), drew in closer to get a glimpse of their messiah. The DNA supplement taker proselytized about Hillary Clinton and her secret ties to communist China, the looming rise of nationalism and the death of the dinosaur media (typified today by Mother Jones’ David Corn, who was invited to join Jones onstage.
“You are the resistance. You are the reason the globalists are in so much trouble. You are part of 1776,” Jones screamed, his face turning various shades of purple like a toe throbbing in the sunlight. “We salute you. Infowars salutes you,” he said before exiting stage right.
Next up to the plate was Roger Stone, a former adviser to Richard Nixon and the source of some of the most unsavory media stories about Trump’s Republican opponents and the Clintons.
Wearing an eggshell-white suit, with his snow white hair standing at odds and ends in the wind, Stone introduced himself as “Italian from the waist down,” before eviscerating Hillary Clinton with a series of half-truths and flat-out unsubstantiated claims.
“They don’t tell us about Vince Foster,” Stone said at one point—after shedding his jacket and tossing it aside. “There was carpet fiber all over his body. They rolled him up in a carpet.”
Stone, who is not formally attached to the Trump campaign in any way, claimed during his speech that he was late because he had met with Trump staffers.
When The Daily Beast asked who these staffers were after the event, Stone replied: “Manafort, Fabrizio—two of my oldest comrades in arms—and Jason Miller; a real pro.” Those people, of course, are Trump’s campaign chairman, one of his pollsters and his communications manager. Miller did not immediately respond to an emailed request for confirmation from The Daily Beast.
“This is dirty money and the Clintons have blood on their hands,” Stone said before wrapping up his address with the infamous two-handed peace sign, an indelible image associated with Nixon—the man whose face is tattooed on Stone’s back.
As he clambered through a throng of supporters and cameras, heading to a car which would take him out of the crazy and the heat, a poster for Stone’s book was visible—taped to one of the porta-potties in the area.