CLEVELAND (TheStreet) -- The Republican National Convention was supposed to bring somewhere between $200 million and $400 million in spending to Cleveland, plus the glory of hosting a major national political event. Politico estimated that 50,000 extra people would crowd the city of 390,000 during the convention. Cleveland revamped its airport, finished a major renovation of Public Square at its center, and recruited thousands of volunteers to welcome convention-goers.
But in the poisonous atmosphere of this presidential election, downtown Cleveland was tense and none too crowded Monday.
Protesters have turned up in the dozens or hundreds, not the thousands. And attendance at Donald Trump's coronation as the Republican presidential candidate -- even by Republicans -- has been spotty. A variety of senior Republican figures are avoiding the convention altogether -- including the governor of Ohio, the former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich.
With the limelight shining on the convention stage, the tense and quiet streets of Cleveland aren't in focus. But residents of the city are visibly worried.
The head of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, Stephen Loomis, told CNN that he had petitioned Kasich to restrict open-carry gun laws downtown during the convention, something Kasich has said is unconstitutional. "I don't care if it's constitutional," Loomis said to CNN, suggesting that the risk is too great.
About 2,500 additional police from outside Cleveland are working the convention, in addition to 500 Cleveland police. Many of the out-of-town police are staying in college dorms. The police presence is very visible downtown, partially because there aren't that many people there to police.
Those police were recruited because large-scale protests and large crowds were expected. In a city that's been gutted by white flight, failing schools, falling population, crumbling housing stock, job loss, de-unionization, brain drain -- in the most Democratic county in Ohio -- everyone expected vivid protests of the Republican convention. Large-scale protests haven't materialized yet. Sure, there are some protesters with bullhorns or signs. But not too many.
On Monday, there also weren't the promised gun-toting hordes of Second Amendment-defenders. Nor were there many anti-Trump protesters, either from the right or the left.
It's not that Cleveland couldn't muster a crowd. On June 22, more than a million people peacefully flooded downtown Cleveland for a parade and rally celebrating the Cavaliers' NBA championship.
So what's going on? Clevelanders desperately want the convention to be a success for their city, which has been on shaky ground for the past half century. Why is downtown Cleveland so quiet during the convention?
Many downtown businesses have told employees to work from home. A fair number of Republican party insiders aren't too enthused about Trump.
And people in Cleveland seem scared. Scared of terrorism, scared of police, scared of people with guns. Few besides the convention attendees, journalists or police were on the streets downtown Monday -- in other words, only those who had to be there.
The subdued atmosphere outside the convention hall may perk up later this week. But for now it seems that the glitz on TV doesn't match the lack of enthusiasm or participation of protesters, delegates or citizens.
Despite the controversy over Trump's candidacy and policies, there are very few people and there is even less dissent on the streets of Cleveland during the RNC so far.