CLEVELAND—Siddiq Mumin is not going to vote for Donald Trump. He believes Trump's rhetoric is dangerous. And he says the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is "supported by a neo-Confederacy of people who want to make America white again."
And yet, on Monday morning, Mumin was dressed in a pinstripe suit, standing in front of a tent stocked full of colorful Trump and RNC hats, trying to entice passersby to buy merchandise for a candidate he considers racist.
"I'm not opposed to free enterprise," Mumin said (after he had charged me a dollar for an interview). "There's a need for this, so I sell it. … I don't have to believe in it."
The streets of downtown Cleveland are full of die-hard Trump fans for the Republican National Convention this week, and a cottage industry of sidewalk stands has erupted to serve them. Trump bobbleheads in plastic cases go for $20. T-shirts and baseball caps are $15. An array of colorful buttons with the Donald's grinning mug put you back $5 each, or four for $15.
But many of the vendors, like Mumin, are about as far from Trump supporters as you can get. Most of the dozen vendors I met outside the convention over the last two days said they would not be voting for him.
La Vonne Williams (pictured above) stood in her tent around the block with a big American flag hung behind her. She had Trump clothing, as well as badges with the photos of every previous Republican president. Everything, she claimed, was made in Cleveland.
Williams doesn't support Trump or Hillary Clinton, but she's glad the Republican convention came to her city. "I think it's a great thing for Cleveland," she said. "We're hoping this will be a peaceful and profitable affair." She said that stands like hers can bring in $6,000 to $8,000 a day in profit, depending on their location.
She also sold swag for the Cleveland Cavaliers after their NBA championship last month, as well as the Obama inaugurations in 2009 and 2013. "It's a business," she said. "There are some things you feel passionate about, but you don't need to to sell this stuff. You can agree to disagree."
Sometimes, she said, passersby will yell at her, assuming she's a Trump supporter—"they say, bleep bleep bleep"—but she doesn't mind. "You can say whatever you want," she said.
Some other vendors, several of whom had crisscrossed the U.S. to hock their wares, believed fully in Trump. Steve Scanlon, a large man from Connecticut who was setting up his stand Monday morning, said he had sold merchandise at 58 different Trump events across the country during this election season.
He had a wall of buttons with slogans like "Blue lives matter," "Bomb the hell out of ISIS," and "Life's a bitch, don't vote for one," with a photo of Clinton.
"I do all his rallies," Scanlon said. He said Secret Service agents used to hassle him for being to close to the events, but "now they know me."
Other vendors had more creative products. Dan Schad and Neal Zipser, friends from Raleigh, N.C., showed up with three cardboard boxes full of "politically incorrect dolls" they had designed. There's a Republican elephant doll and a Democratic donkey doll, both dressed up in red white and blue suits. When you pull the elephant's hand, it plays a recorded dirty joke about Hillary Clinton or Democrats; when you pull the donkey's hand, you get one about Trump or Republicans.
Schad said the business, which just got started last week, was inspired by the Republican nominee's own intemperate remarks. "He's politically incorrect, and that's why I like him," he said.
Down the street, Dan Malafronte, 21, of New Jersey, set up a table of "Trump Flakes," Frosted Flakes in a custom box. "They're grrreat again!" a slogan on the box reads. Malafronte said that he and his business partner had sold about 400 boxes in just a few hours on Monday—each for $40.
"It's like buying a box with your favorite athlete on it," said Malafronte, who is "neutral" in the election. "It's the same thing."
But most of the local vendors—who were mostly people of color—had no real love for the Republican nominee. On Sunday afternoon, two women wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats hocked Trump T-shirts and buttons at a sidewalk stand as a group of Black Lives Matter protesters walked by on the sidewalk.
One of vendors laughed when I asked whether she supported Trump, and shook her head. “We gotta do what we gotta do,” she said.
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.