Cleveland braces for possibility of violence, mass arrests amid RNC

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CLEVELAND — The Republican National Convention opens Monday with dueling marches on the streets of this city, where officials have been preparing for months for the possibility of violence and mass arrests.

A group in support of Donald Trump has a permit to take over the official parade route under the banner "America First." Organizers said on their permit application that they expected up to 5,000 people to join them but it was unknown how many had committed to attend. It appeared some 200 people were at the rally Monday morning, some toting guns.

Images from Cleveland of RNC protesters

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Protestors at RNC in Cleveland
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Protestors at RNC in Cleveland
Police officers use bicycles to create cordons around a protest march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC," ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Police officers use bicycles to create cordons around a protest march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC," ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Demonstrators from various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC," hold placards as they march ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Police officers use bicycles to create cordons around a protest march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC," ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Activists carry a prop during a protest march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC," ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
An activist with Code Pink poses next to police on bicycles monitoring a protest march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC" ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Demonstrators wave the Palestinian flag and chant slogans during a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC" ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Demonstrators with "Code Pink" chant as they are moved by horse mounted police during a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC" ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
A demonstrator holds a sing during a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC", ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Demonstrators with "Code Pink" chant as they are moved by horse mounted police during a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC" ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
A demonstrator yells during a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC", ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Police on bicycle and horseback block a downtown street during a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC" ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Demonstrators chant slogans during a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC" ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Demonstrators yell during a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC" ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
A reporter talks to police dressed in tactical gear as they block a downtown street during a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC" ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
A demonstrator has a sticker taped over her mouth during a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC" ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Police block a downtown street with their bicycles during a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC" ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Demonstrators join in a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC" ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Polic hem in demonstrators with their bicycles as they join in a march by various groups, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Shut Down Trump and the RNC" ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
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Dozens of members of the group Bikers for Trump showed up on their motorcycles to provide security at the America First rally.

Jack Dunn, 60, an oil worker and trucker from North Dakota, said he spent two days biking to Cleveland. While he is a Trump supporter, he said his motivation was to make sure the convention isn't disrupted.

"My primary reason was to come here and stand up and protect the democratic process," he said. "[Protesters] say they want to shut it down? Why? If they don't want Donald Trump to be president, they should just go vote for someone else. All I can do is put myself between innocent people and harms way."

Chris Cox, the Bikers for Trump organizer, claimed the group had thousands of bikers in town this week, ready to intervene if "agitators" try to close things down.

RELATED: Bikers for Trump

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CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: Members of the Bikers for Trump motorcycle group attend a rally for Donald Trump on the first day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) on July 18, 2016 in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in downtown Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The convention runs through July 21. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: Jeff Gunder, a member of the Bikers for Trump motorcycle group, attends a rally for Donald Trump on the first day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) on July 18, 2016 in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in downtown Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The convention runs through July 21. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: Jeff Gunder, a member of the Bikers for Trump motorcycle group, attends a rally for Donald Trump on the first day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) on July 18, 2016 in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in downtown Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The convention runs through July 21. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: Members of the Bikers for Trump motorcycle group attend a rally for Donald Trump on the first day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) on July 18, 2016 in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in downtown Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The convention runs through July 21. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 29 - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters and bikers on the National Mall during the Rolling Thunder Inc. XXIX 'Freedom Ride,' on Sunday, May 29, 2016 in Washington. The annual bike ride which occurs over Memorial Day weekend, honors U.S. prisoners of war and missing-in-action troops, as well as raises awareness about veterans issues. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MAY 29 - Bikers and supporters cheer as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on the National Mall during the Rolling Thunder Inc. XXIX 'Freedom Ride,' on Sunday, May 29, 2016 in Washington. The annual bike ride which occurs over Memorial Day weekend, honors U.S. prisoners of war and missing-in-action troops, as well as raises awareness about veterans issues. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MAY 29 - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets bikers and supporters on the National Mall during the Rolling Thunder Inc. XXIX 'Freedom Ride,' on Sunday, May 29, 2016 in Washington. The annual bike ride which occurs over Memorial Day weekend, honors U.S. prisoners of war and missing-in-action troops, as well as raises awareness about veterans issues. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MAY 29 - A biker shows off his shirt in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, on the National Mall during the Rolling Thunder Inc. XXIX 'Freedom Ride,' on Sunday, May 29, 2016 in Washington. The annual bike ride which occurs over Memorial Day weekend, honors U.S. prisoners of war and missing-in-action troops, as well as raises awareness about veterans issues. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29: People watch as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the annual Rolling Thunder First Amendment Demonstration Run May 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. Bikers are gathering in the annual parade in the nation's capital to remember those who were prisoners of war and missing in action on Memorial Day weekend. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 29: Bikers for Trump hold up signs as they listen to presidential candidate Donald Trump as he speak to the Rolling Thunder bikers at the Lincoln Memorial during the annual Memorial Day Rolling Thunder ride in Washington on Sunday, May 29, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets with unidentified members of Bikers for Trump during the annual Rolling Thunder First Amendment Demonstration Run May 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. Bikers are gathering in the annual parade in the nation's capital to remember those who were prisoners of war and missing in action on Memorial Day weekend. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 29: Rolling Thunder bikers with a Donald Trump sticker on their windshield return a salute as they pass over Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial during the annual Memorial Day Rolling Thunder ride in Washington on Sunday, May 29, 2016. Republican presidential candidate was expected to speak at the event later in the afternoon. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Mark Purcell, left, and Bill Wischmeier prepare to ride to a Bikers for Trump rally in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses bikers as part of the Rolling Thunder speakers program at the Reflecting Pool near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, U.S., May 29, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Veteran and biker Bill "Chewy" Throckmorton (L), and Greg "Biggs" Bigger, both of Zelienople, Pennsylvania, recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a Bikers for Trump 2016 rally at Jergel?s Rhythm Grille in Warrendale, Pennsylvania April 24, 2016. REUTERS/Alan Freed
Members of the group Bikers for Trump watch during a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Settlers Landing Park on Monday, July 18, 2016, in Cleveland. The Republican National Convention that starts today. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Members of the group Bikers for Trump arrive at a rally for Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump at Settlers Landing Park on Monday, July 18, 2016, in Cleveland. The Republican National Convention that starts today. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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Trump supporter Sam Kurek, 25, of York County, Pennsylvania, said he is not a die-hard Trump backer but feels he's the best choice in the election. "I'm not 100 percent for everything Trump says, but at least the establishment doesn't like him," he said.

Asked about the head of the Cleveland police union's call for the suspension of open-carry gun laws during the RNC, Kurek replied: "Suspending constitutional rights out of fear is a very dangerous conversation to have."

At about the same time, an anti-Trump coalition was staging an anti-poverty rally without a permit on the other side of the city. The group Prophets of Rage, which includes Public Enemy rapper Chuck D, was set to perform and march.

Announcements for that event said the plan was to march on the Quicken Loans Arena, but they are unlikely to get close to the actual convention site, which is ringed by steel fences and controlled by the U.S. Secret Service.

More from NBC News: Police Union Calls for Weapons Ban During RNC

"We're going to allow them to exercise their First Amendment rights in a peaceful way," Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said on Sunday. "For the past eight days, we've done that. And we haven't had any issues."

A Sunday afternoon rally and marchput on by an anti-Trump group without a permit provided a preview of police crowd-control tactics.

The 200-plus demonstrators were legally supposed to remain on the sidewalk but took to the roadway as soon as they set off, and police let them march in the street.

Officers on bikes, some wearing body armor, had the most visible presence. They stayed to the side and in front of the marchers and massed at certain intersections to block protesters from crossing.

The protesters, representing a wide spectrum of causes but largely focused on police brutality, did not confront officers. The officers, meanwhile, gave the marchers a wide berth.

At the end of the march as the crowd dispersed, one protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask walked over to a police officer and shook his hand.

RELATED: 20 celebrities who endorse Donald Trump

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20 celebrities who endorse Donald Trump
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20 celebrities who endorse Donald Trump

Kid Rock

Kid Rock showed his support for the presidential hopeful in an interview with Rolling Stone, saying he's "digging Trump." He also added, "Let the motherf---ing business guy run it like a f---ing business. And his campaign has been entertaining as shit."

Photo via AP

Mike Tyson
 

The former heavyweight champion announced that he would endorse Trump while appearing on HuffPost Live back in October of 2015. "He should be president of the United States," Tyson said. 

As for what Trump has said about immigration, Tyson said the words were "crude" and someone could work with him on the delivery of his message.

Photo via AP

Stephen Baldwin


Baldwin, who was fired by Trump on two different seasons of "The Celebrity Apprentice," said during an interview with Don Lemon on an episode of "CNN Tonight" that Trump would make a "great" president "because he's not a politician, and he doesn't care what anybody thinks."  

Photo via Getty

Gary Busey

The actor endorsed Trump back in 2011, even after being fired from season four of "The Celebrity Apprentice," and offered his praise for the presidential hopeful again recently. "He's a great guy. He's sharp. He's fast," he told Fox411. "He can change the country after the last eight years."  

Photo via Getty

Dennis Rodman

The retired pro-basketball player tweeted: "@realDonaldTrump has been a great friend for many years. We don't need another politician, we need a businessman like Mr. Trump! Trump 2016." He was fired from season two of "The Celebrity Apprentice." 

Photo via Getty

Lou Ferrigno

When asked by TMZ for his thoughts on Trump, the actor and former bodybuilder said, "I hope Donald goes all the way." He was also fired from a season of "The Celebrity Apprentice." 

Photo via Getty

Hulk Hogan

TMZ asked Hogan which 2016 Republican presidential candidate he would want to face in the ring, but instead of answering the question, he said he'd want to be Trump's running mate. 

Photo via AP

Ted Nugent 

The musician wrote an article for WorldNetDaily in which he said, "[Trump] should be given the Medal of Freedom for speaking his mind in such a bold, honest, and straightforward manner."

Photo via Getty

Tila Tequila 

The model and reality star posted a video on YouTube expressing her support for Trump.

Photo via Getty

Wayne Newton

The Las Vegas entertainer announced his support on "Fox and Friends," “I love Donald, and he would make a great president,” he said. But he also voiced his support for other hopefuls, such as Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson. 

Photo via Getty

Willie Robertson

The businessman and star of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” supported Trump at a rally in Oklahoma last year, where he was invited up on stage. He officially announced his endorsement in January. 

Photo via Getty

Jesse Ventura 

Jesse Ventura

The former pro wrestler, former Minnesota governor, and actor was speaking with previous Trump staffer Roger Stone for "Off the Grid," when Ventura said, "I shocked my staff today. I came in and said, ‘You know what, as far as the Republicans are concerned, I hope Trump wins.'" Though he also added, "Now I’m not a Republican — I’m not a Democrat either — so ultimately, I’d like somebody else to win overall.”

Photo via Getty

Charlie Sheen 

After initially calling Trump a "shame pile of idiocy" in a tweet, Sheen had a change of heart a month later and tweeted that he'd be Trump's "VP in a heartbeat!"

Photo via AP

Ivana Trump

The socialite held a luncheon in support of her ex-husband. 

Photo via AP

Mike Ditka

The retired NFL coach said of Trump, "I think that he has the fire in his belly to make America great again and probably do it the right way," in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. 

Photo via AP

Terrell Owens 

The retired NFL wide receiver told TMZ Sports, "This may be what the country needs and Trump... He’s a guy who won’t put up with B.S. and has what it takes to change how government is run." He appeared on the most recent season of "The Celebrity Apprentice."   

Photo via Getty 

Azealia Banks

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Jesse James 

James, a TV personality and founder of West Coast Choppers, posted a lengthy Facebook message in January supporting his former "Celebrity Apprentice" boss. He said:

 "Ive met a lot of people in life and I have found it best to form opinions about them by actually meeting them in person. ... What I personally observed is a man that is perfect suited to run this country. ... One thing you know about me is Good or bad I will always tell it like it is. This guy is the Real Deal, and will Make America Great Again."

Photo via AP

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Still, authorities have been bracing for trouble, clearing out 1,000 spots in local jails and overflow centers and opening the courts for 20 hours a day to process arrestees.

With the help of a $50 million security grant, they purchased 10,000 extra sets of plastic handcuffs, 2,500 interlocking steel security fences, and 2,000 sets of riot gear.

The head of Cleveland's police union, Steve Loomis, called Sunday for the governor to suspend open-carry gun provisions during the RNC. Gov. John Kasich's office said he did not have the power to suspend gun rights.

A gun-rights rally held Sunday in Cleveland's public square attracted just two participants.

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