Rod Webber describes himself as a flower-bearing artistic filmmaker.
The Boston native, dubbed "The Flower Guy" has been in Cleveland every day of the Republican National Convention, passing out flowers and hugs in the thick of demonstrations.
“I don’t see myself as a protester,” Webber said. “I’m a teacher. I’m a lover. I’m man who gives flowers. And sometimes when I hear something that’s wrong, certainly, I’ll correct the people that are putting out hate.”
The FBI suspects he and his friends are also urine-tossing political antagonists. They aren't strangers.
The two sides met again early in the morning inside a non-descript duplex in Elyria.
To Webber, who was roused from his sleep by a well-armed small army of FBI agents and other law officers, the encounter early Wednesday morning was a “no-knock raid” designed to intimidate the group.
“It’s terrifying,” Webber told WKYC Channel 3 News during an exclusive interview.
“Your life can come to an end at any moment…you’d think we’re some kind of drug-dealing cartel and [actually] I’m giving out flowers.”
Webber said officers entered the home without permission and without a warrant. The FBI officers inside wanted to ask him if his group was throwing water bottles or feces during the RNC demonstrations.
The federal agents were armed with large-caliber firearms, he said.
“Their whole thing was nuts,” Webber said. “I even made the point to them. ‘That really can’t be it. I mean, really. Why did you come out here? You didn’t really bring 20 cops, the FBI and all these guns for water bottles’?”
Apparently, they did. The agents left without making any arrests or seizing any property. Webber and his companions filmed the encounter and posted the video on YouTube.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s a massive over-use of force,” Webber said.
FBI spokesperson Special Agent Vicki Anderson said the group is “anti-law enforcement” and agents were concerned that the seven to eight men inside may have been armed.
She said the FBI were told the men were responsible for pushing and shoving officers during the RNC. They are also suspected of tossing items at law enforcement during demonstrations.
“It was a protective sweep, that’s all it was,” she said. “No search was conducted. There’s no warrant that’s needed for that.”
A second man inside the home, who would only identify himself as Jose, was shocked by the FBI’s sudden appearance. He’s concerned that federal agents will continue to try to intimidate anyone who protests or demonstrates at political events.
'You're actually going door-to-door trying to intimidate American citizens from exercising their First Amendment rights,” he said. “If they did this in [Afghanistan], there would be international outrage."
The raid got the attention of the Ohio chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which is monitoring police conduct during the RNC.
Attorney Jacqueline Greene of the NLG said the massive police presence during the RNC and the FBI raid on Webber’s residence can have a “chilling effect” that should concern every American.
She said the legal group sees the FBI action “as an act of intimidation and an attempt to chill First Amendment activities during the RNC.”
The legal aid group is monitoring the situation before taking any court action.
The FBI issued the following statement Thursday:
"On the morning of July 20, 2016, law enforcement representatives from the FBI and Elyria police department conducted interviews in response to investigative leads. The occupants were interviewed outside the residence and no arrests were made. Law enforcement will continue to respond to investigative leads to ensure the security of the RNC."
Webber is no stranger to the FBI or political action.
His videos on YouTube attest to it. He’s attended 171 rallies this year alone. He’ll be back on the streets of Cleveland on Thursday night as the RNC closes.
Webber and several of his traveling companions are staying at the Elyria home through the end of the RNC. They plan to leave and head to Philadelphia to attend and film the Democratic National Convention, which starts Monday.