Neither the fear of Tropical Storm Isaac or the heavy-handed security walled up around the National Republican Convention in Tampa slowed the earliest protesters from voicing their opposition to the platform positions of Mitt Romney, his vice-presidential running mate Paul Ryan, and the political party they both now represent.
A contigent of protesters marched to the Tropicana Field on Sunday where the RNC was hosting its convention "kick-off party" and a variety of progressive groups held smaller events nearby to let it be known that they would not stand idly by while the Republican party lurches even further to the right.
According to the Tampa Tribune, the thousand or more people who marched to the Tropicana event were met by "several hundred troops comprised of police, sheriff's deputies and others" that penned them in along the way.
The centerpiece of the march was a giant statue of Mitt Romney wearing a sign that said "King of the 1%."
"Medicaid is being cut," Susan, an unemployed hospital worker from New York, told the Huffington Post. "Charity care is being cut. So the hospital is really struggling."
Marchers chanted "No to the Ryan Budget" along the way and "We Are the 99%," a familiar rallying cry of the Occupy movement that grew out of Wall Street protests in the fall of last year. The rally ended, as the Tribune points out, "at a predetermined and fenced-in protest zone across from the Forum and adjacent to a set of railroad tracks, where rail giant CSX last week parked dozens of luxury passenger cars for a private reception for RNC VIPs - all guarded by high fences and armed troops at each checkpoint."
Later, a smaller group, including Code Pink and women's health advocates, marched to an event being held by the Faith and Freedom coalition, an anti-choice group founded by conservative activist Ralph Reed.
“We are here protesting today because Ralph Reed and the Faith and Freedom Coalition are threatening women’s rights, pushing for inequality and lack of access to essential reproductive healthcare,” said Alli McCracken, CODEPINK national organizer. “This group endangers the lives of women, and women are taking to the streets to speak out against the religious right’s war on women.”
Meanwhile, The Guardian's Paul Harris reports on the "Romneyville" encampment in Tampa, organized by the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign:
They have dubbed it "Romneyville" but the name is not meant as a compliment to the Republican grandee shortly to be nominated as the party's presidential candidate.
Instead the rag-tag denizens of this makeshift encampment of homeless people, leftist activists and protesters are determined to be a thorn in the Republican party's side as the GOP's national convention unfolds.
City officials have tried to evict the protesters, who are collected in several buses, cars and a score of tents outside on a patch of gravel just outside Tampa's downtown – and just inside a restricted "event zone" declared by the host city.
But their efforts failed on a technicality and now occupants of the camp are determined to go ahead with a series of unauthorised marches and protests to herald the start of the convention.
"I don't believe in zoning free speech. That's censorship. If you are law abiding and peaceful than you should be able to address your government," said camp organiser Cheri Honkala, an anti-poverty campaigner and the Green Party's nominee for vice-president in the 2012 election.
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