Jorge Rivas/Fusion
Jorge Rivas/Fusion

CLEVELAND―Dozens of immigrant rights protesters locked arms on Wednesday to build a human border wall in front of the Republican National Convention. The activists brought their protest to the epicenter of a presidential campaign that has promised not just to build a physical wall but to deport an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.

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CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 20:  Protesters demonstrate against Donald Trump near the site of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in downtown Cleveland on the third day of the convention on July 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Many people have stayed away from downtown due to road closures and the fear of violence. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Immigrants rights activist form a 'human border wall' near the RNC.
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Organizers of the immigrant rights protest invited a group of veterans to act as liaisons with police and de-escalate any potentially violent confrontations.

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“Voters in this country trust veterans, and it’s our responsibility to stand up and say, look, these are the American values that unite us all, and that we swore to uphold when we enlisted in the military,” said Alexander McCoy, who served six years in the Marines and deployed to Saudi Arabia, Honduras, and Germany in support of the State Department.

In the end, there wasn't much to de-escalate. Cleveland police made only a handful of arrests over the first three days of the convention. And heated moments at protests were rare. But the veterans were there, just in case.

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Alexander McCoy (center) a member of Vets vs Hate participates in the border wall protest
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McCoy said he hopes the next president remembers the military is as diverse as the rest of the civilian population.

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"As veterans, we believe we're able to engage with people from across the spectrum and find common ground and make sure we stay safe and peaceful here in Cleveland," said McCoy, a member of the group Vets vs Hate.

"I served alongside women, Latinos, Muslims, LGBT individuals. And they served honorably just as much as I did. And they deserve respect from our next leader," McCoy said.

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Matt Stys of Colorado speaks to a Cleveland police official, telling him protesters are approaching peacefully.
Matt Stys, an Army veteran from Colorado, speaks to a Cleveland Police official to inform him protestors are approaching peacefully.
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Elliot Adams served as an infantry paratrooper in Vietnam, Japan, Korea and Alaska. He is a member of Veterans for Peace.
Jorge Rivas/Fusion
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The first person at the front of the human border wall, which extended more than 1,000 feet, was a 69-year-old Vietnam veteran.

Elliot Adams held a 25-foot banner tightly as police officers and news camera operators bumped into him. He was the person closest to the door and more likely to have to deal with upset delegates trying to get across the demonstrators to enter the convention.

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Emily Yates of Oakland (center) served in the Army for seven years and was prepared to deescalate  heated exchanges.
Emily Yates of Oakland (center) served in the Army for seven years and was prepared to deescalate heated exchanges.
Jorge Rivas/Fusion
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Army veteran Maggie Martin has attended protests in Cleveland prepared to act as a liaison between police and protestors. Martin traveled to Cleveland from Decatur, Tennessee to participate in several events, including an anti-poverty protest earlier in the week.
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Maggie Martin said there were close to 30 veterans who were in Cleveland to help keep protest from getting violent. Many of them traveled to Cleveland and have been camping nearby.

“Veterans have a certain amount of privilege in our public discourse, and we recognize that and we want to use that for good causes,” Martin said.

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