The Republicans are in Tampa, and so are the protesters.
On Sunday afternoon, people from various groups, backgrounds and regions gathered in Lykes Gaslight Square Park to demonstrate against the RNC. The protest culminated in a march toward the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Their main grievances were primarily economic. Signs and chants focused on the strife of the 99% and the business practices of Mitt Romney.
A stage and speaker system were set up in the park as activists rallied others with calls and responses, speeches, and surprisingly adept beat boxing. Despite the gray weather and light rain, there were at least two hundred people present. The organizers eventually split everyone into groups to begin a march toward the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Romney’s involvement with the investment firm Bain Capital One was a target of outrage. Sam Moore, 19, is an employee at Dunkin’ Donuts — a Bain-owned company — and came to Tampa from Pittsburg, PA, to protest. In his opinion he’s not alone.
“Washington, Minnesota, California, Houston, they are fed up. We want more, it might take some time but in the end we’re not going to quit.” said Moore of those present. “They are going to have to show us something, not even just the Bain companies, just minimum wage stuff. This is what I’m for, trying to get the 99% heard.”
Moore thinks that economic times are toughest for the younger generation. A father of two, he was quick to mention that the minimum wage was not enough to support his family.
“We’re working making a little over $7.25 an hour, while gas is going up everyday.”
The march was fairly well-organized as activists in safety-orange vests made sure to keep those present in single file and moving to avoid any kind of tension with authorities.
There were also medically trained activists on hand to attend to any possible injuries.
One of the medics, who goes by the moniker “Cobra," travels to actions across the country. His first event as a medic was at Occupy Minneapolis. He said he's not at the events for political reasons, but to make sure everything goes smoothly. Trained in first aid and CPR, he added that the main focus is to "do no harm."
“Street Medics are a neutral party, (we) help people who get injured," Cobra said. “If anyone gets hurt, mostly we deal with first aid type stuff. If someone gets too injured, we try to get higher care.”
Louis Porteous, from South Florida, came with members of Stand Up Florida — an organization dedicated to encouraging “economic fairness." He attended to be with other like-minded individuals.
“We’re coming out as a group of people, something's got to give.”
Porteous said large actions like protests are necessary to get a message across.
“This is the closest thing that we can come to self defense. If a small group of us did this cops would just beat the crap out of us.”
He went on to discuss the income gap in the United States, an issue he thinks the Republicans aren’t helping. Like many in attendance, Porteous learned of the protest through social media.
“Grapevine baby, Internet mostly, Twitter and Facebook. It’s a cross-section of America, if you look at the 1% , it’s a bunch of rich white dudes. Look at the 99%."
The march stayed at relatively stable numbers when it reached a field at the forum. The protesters held their signs and demonstrated, hoping to be seen by the Republican Party that had gathered there. After a little less than an hour, the group was led to a pick up point to be joined by its respective groups.
As the convention continues, future protests are slated to occur, many of which will be attended by those present today. Despite the weather, it seems the anger won’t be diminished.