Tampa streets not filled with GOP protesters
Sunday, August 26, 2012
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — You can’t see them. You can barely hear them over the din of the wind and rain swirling in the skies above from Tropical Storm Isaac. Protesters are here but it’s highly unlikely they’ll come close to crossing paths with Republicans for the presidential nominating convention.
Protesters are being kept blocks away and, so far, they’ve gathered in groups several dozen to a few hundred. But the worries of massive protests that might bring violence and a cacophony of chanting have been elusive.
With Isaac making its way northward toward the Gulf Coast, brushing Tampa Bay, the Republican National Convention has been pushed off to a later start. Protesters might also be staying away because of the storm, whose path and intensity has been difficult to predict. Isaac’s outer bands were already bringing intermittent rain and gusts of wind but no downpours, and the usual August heat and humidity was being kept relatively at bay.
Sunday’s protests ran the gamut from unionized labor and Occupy Wall Street to a hearty band of 30 who criticized presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney for putting his dog Seamus in a crate atop his station wagon on a long-ago family vacation.
“If somebody is going to treat their animal inhumanely, how are they going to treat our country?” said Kim Swygert, 37, a law student from Tampa, who came with her Great Dane.
Several carried anti-Romney signs including one that read, “Don’t roof rack me, bro.”
Those who turned out said they were hoping for more demonstrators, but the lousy weather kept people away.
“A lot of people were afraid to come out because of the approaching rain and thunder,” said Sarah Kilker, who was accompanied by a long-haired Chihuahua and a mixed chow and terrier.
The streets of Tampa didn’t resemble St. Paul, Minn., in 2008, when thousands of protesters packed the city for the last Republican convention. Some smashed cars, punctured tires and threw bottles in a confrontation with pepper-spray wielding police. Hundreds were arrested over a few days, including dozens of journalists. Authorities in Tampa say they learned from that convention and Congress allocated $50 million for security.
A few hundred protesters braved the intermittent rain and wind at a park about a half-mile from the convention site of the Tampa Bay Times Forum. They were watching large blocks of ice that spelled out the words “middle class” melt, saying it represented the erosion of the middle class in America. The art installation was planned for Monday but moved up because of the weather.
Marchers chanted “we are the 99 percent” and carried homemade signs. The 99 percent refers to the group’s message that most don’t share in the wealth of America.
For months, protesters were gearing up for scores of people to converge on Tampa the day before the convention began to showcase their laundry list of beefs and key messages.