Convention Begins In The Streets
by Thomas MacMillan | Aug 28, 2012 10:30 am
Posted to: Campaign 2012
TAMPA, Fla.—You thought Tropical Storm Isaac canceled Day One of the Republican National Convention? Click on the play arrow, read on—and think again.
The storm did give official RNC delegates most of Monday off as organizers canceled most events scheduled here for day one of the quadrennial gathering of Republican delegates gathered to nominate presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The storm barreled into the Gulf of Mexico Monday, passing well to the west of the convention.
Meanwhile, crowds of Tampa-crashers worked hard Monday: Protestors—including two former members of Occupy New Haven—chanted in the streets, entrepreneurs hawked anti-Obama iPhone apps and kids’ books, and the rag-tag Ron Paul army agitated for inclusion.
Isaac edges made Monday in Tampa a day of intermittent sun, wind, and deluges of rain. Protestors marched through the weather in morning and afternoon events.
Meanwhile, inside the air-conditioned chill of the cavernous Tampa Bay Times Forum—bedecked in red, white, and blue and outfitted with a multimillion-dollar multimedia display system—national Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus formally gavelled the convention into session and then immediately into recess.
The official commencement was the day’s only official scheduled event. The convention has been compressed from four days to three days due to the storm. The 2 p.m. “gavelling” was attended by only a fraction of the convention’s delegates.
Outside the hall, several hundred people turned out for the morning “March on the RNC” (pictured), an event organized by several dozen labor, student, immigrant, and anti-war groups. Tom Burke, one of the organizers, put the crowd at over 1,000, and said he was pleased by that turnout, given the threat of a tropical storm.
After a morning rally at Perry Harvey Sr. Park, protestors marched south towards the convention center, chanting, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay! Republicans, go away!”
Dozens of khaki-uniformed police officers on foot and on bikes escorted them along the way while members of the national and international press photographed, filmed, and interviewed them.
An unruly group of black-flag-bearing anarchists (pictured) walked ahead of the file, alternately joining in the protest chants and complaining about the protest’s uselessness.
The march concluded at an officially sanctioned free-speech zone within sight of the convention center but ringed with steel fencing.
“This! Is! A big fucking cage!” some of the protestors chanted, drowning out others who called out, “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!”
“I’m Wearing A Large Vagina”
A variety of speakers took to a stage to address a quickly dwindling crowd about immigrant and gay rights, education and peace.
Erika Audiola, a 25-year-old native Mexican who wore a shirt that read, “Undocumented,” said she came from her home in Arizona to protest against Republicans’ “anti-immigrant rhetoric.”
“They’re not realizing how much they’re going to need the Latino vote this year,” she said.
John Debus, a 62-year-old Army veteran from Fort Pierce, Florida, carried a sign that read, “Money is not free speech.”
“We no longer have a democracy,” he said. “Our country is run by the special interests, lobbyists, corporations.”
Debus said both Democrats and Republicans are held in the sway of special interests, but Republicans more so.
“I’m wearing a large vagina,” said Andrea Assaf, a 39-year-old from Tampa who was indeed, including a sign that said, “Read my lips: End the war on women.”
Assaf was part of a contingent of protestors with Code Pink, the women’s’ antiwar group. “We’re speaking out against the Republican platform and its laws and proposals around the rights of women and also against war, because war always disproportionately affects women,” she said.
An Ounce Of Silver
Inside the convention hall, Chairman Preibus took the podium amid applause and the clattering of camera shutters. With an enormous gavel, he officially kicked off the convention. The he started up a “real-time national debt clock”; he said it “will log the amount of debt that accrues during the course of this convention.”
After an opening prayer (pictured) led by Houston’s Rev. Dr. Russel Levenson, an video montage was shown, featuring Romney proclaiming his candidacy amid waving flags and smiling Americans.
Back outside, David Lipinoga flogged his “Angry Patriots and Pinheads” video game by handing out free anti-Obama T-shirts. The game is based on the popular “Angry Birds” mobile-phone app. Players use a cannon to launch “angry patriots,” bald eagles, Uncle Sam hats, and Statues of Liberty at different structures symbolizing Obama.
“You have to rescue the Constitution and the United States from being destroyed from Socialism,” he said.
A few blocks away, just outside fences surrounding the convention area, Loren Spivack (pictured) of Amherst, Mass., was hawking his $20 children’s book, “The Cat And The Mitt.”
“It’s a parody of Obama based on the ‘Cat In The Hat’ with Mitt Romney as the fish and [Harry] Reid and [Nancy] Pelosi as Thing One and Thing Two. It humorously tells the story of the last four years,” he said.
Inspiration came when he realized that The Cat In That Hat is the story of “Obama’s personality,” Spivack said. “He wrecks everything he touches, and he’s incapable of understanding that he is the problem.”
Nearby, several Ron Paul supporters called out pro-Paul slogans. They were a small part of a large number of Paul supporters who descended on Tampa in advance the convention.
Bryn Dennehy (pictured), a 24-year-old from Eugene, Oregon, said he’s still hoping for a Paul nomination and “a fight on the convention floor.”
“This ‘unity’ crap is such B.S.,” he said. “He’s the only true conservative running.”
Dennehy pulled out an ounce of silver.
“I just brought it with me here because Ron Paul’s big on promoting tying the dollar to a precious metal or some sort of sound money.” The coin is only worth about $30 now, but he’s expecting its value to rise as the dollar’s plummets, he said.
From Occupy New Haven, Without A Tent
Later in the afternoon, protestors marched into town from “Romneyville,” an encampment of activists nearby. The name is a play on “Hooverville,” the name given to shanty towns built by homeless people during the Great Depression.
A “March For Your Lives” was organized by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. It featured Occupiers, anarchists, some Ron Paul enthusiasts, and perennial presidential prankster Vermin Supreme.
Heckling freely through a megaphone, Supreme wore his trademark boot-on-the-head and raft of ties under a vest and over a bare chest.
New Haven’s 25-year-old Gregory Walker (pictured), formerly of Occupy New Haven fame, was on hand for the protest march. He said he took a 20-hour bus ride down from New York city to the RNC in “solidarity, backing my Tampa people up.” He said he came down with Danielle DiGirolamo, also formerly of Occupy New Haven, without a tent and slept under an overpass Sunday night.
Asked what his message was, Walker said, “Don’t vote Republican? … At least don’t vote Romney. I mean we already got Obama, and he’s kind of flaky.”
The march made it to the corner of Kennedy and North Tampa streets before it was blocked by rows of cops in full riot gear. Rising to the challenge, protestors sat down in the street, between cops and snapping press photographers.
Tampa Assistant Police Chief John Bennett (pictured) eventually negotiated an end to the stand-off, making an appeal to the “99 percenters” who might be trying to use the street to, say, get to the hospital to give birth. Protestors held a quick vote on whether to move to the sidewalk. Fingers waggling aloft indicated a consensus of yes.
Chief Bennett’s efforts to disperse the protest were helped along when the skies opened up. Protestors and press scurried for cover. Cops held their ground; they were drenched by rain that left the streets empty.
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FIGHT THE POWER!
Unless it’s raining.
What a tremendous display of conviction.
posted by: OccupyTheClassroom on August 28, 2012 4:19pm
Nice! Keep up the pressure. Solidarity from ONH!