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The Republican convention just kicked off in Cleveland — and anything could happen

Massive competing protests for and against Trump are planned for Monday, and tensions are running high after the recent incidents in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

by Olivia Becker
Jul 18 2016, 4:50pm

Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA

More than 125,000 balloons have been inflated, about 15,000 journalists are officially credentialed, and 5,500 law enforcement agents are prepping for chaos. The 2016 Republican National Convention kicks off on Monday — and Cleveland is ready.

But even though the city has been preparing to host the massive event for more than a year, there is still a feeling of unpredictability in the air. Massive competing protests for and against Trump are planned for Monday, and tensions are running high after the recent incidents in Dallas, Minneapolis, and Baton Rouge.

Despite the sense that anything could happen over the next four days, many locals aren't too concerned.

Related: Ohio's open-carry gun law comes under fire ahead of GOP convention

Cleveland resident Hyacinth Raven was in a downtown park observing a small protest in support of Ohio's open-carry gun laws on Sunday afternoon.

"I'm not worried about Cleveland," she said, unperturbe by the sight of a gun rights activist with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder nearby. "I'm more worried about people coming here who aren't from Cleveland to protest and want to stir stuff up — on both sides."

Law enforcement officers making an early arrest in downtown Cleveland. (Photo by Olivia Becker/VICE News)

About 200 protesters took the streets on Sunday, chanting "No justice, no peace, no racist police!" and holding signs showing their opposition to Trump, police brutality and the GOP. But the protest was relatively calm and disbanded before any signs of violence.

For others, the RNC offers an opportunity to cash in rather than protest. That included the construction workers who were busy on Sunday building the ten-foot barricades encircling the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention is being held.

"I'm excited about making money," said one worker, who didn't want to give his name, when asked how he felt about the next week. "We're making double overtime pay" because of the convention, he explained.

Bike cops in downtown Cleveland. (Photo by Olivia Becker/VICE News)

If you ignore the ubiquitous police presence, the city has the feeling of a massive, GOP-themed street fair. Vendors are hawking t-shirts that read "Hillary for Prison," "Hot Chicks Vote Republican," and "Donald Fucking Trump." Red, white, and blue hats with "Make America Great Again" are everywhere

One vendor named Scotty was selling Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Trump shirts. He said he's sold almost the same amount of Sanders and Trump gear — but not a single Clinton t-shirt.

Related: Donald Trump blames Hillary Clinton for just about everything

"No surprise," he snorted.

Nearby, another vendor named Tony was selling Trump bobbleheads for $20. On the bottom of the figurines was a small sticker that read "Made in China." A Trump supporter, he brushed off the observation that he's selling foreign-made goods with the likeness of candidate who rails against China's "unfair" trade practices.

"We don't have a choice!" Tony said, explaining that the bobbleheads are his top-selling item. "They're not making them here. That's why they're cheaper."

Tony selling Trump bobbleheads, made in China. (Photo by Olivia Becker/VICE News)

The Republican National Committee only released the official convention schedule on Sunday evening, outlining the theme for each of the next four days: Monday is "Make America Safe Again," Tuesday is "Make America Great Again," Wednesday is "Make America First Again," and Thursday is "Make America One Again." The first speaker of the convention is Willie Robertson, of Duck Dynasty reality TV fame. Trump himself will make the keynote address on Thursday night.

Related: The Republican Convention speaker list is filled with D-list celebrities, Trumps, and pro athletes

The rest of the speakers' list — made up of businessmen, fringe Republican officials, sheriffs, professional athletes, and Trump's personal friends and family — looks like the lineup from a Republican-themed Coachella.

Although the schedule is not exactly a rundown of rising leaders in the Republican party, the speakers' lineup confirmed Trump's promise that this year's convention will indeed be anything but conventional.

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @oliviaLbecker