Sunday, August 26, 2012

Seven activists ejected from Tampa Theatre after they interrupt Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Posted By on Sun, Aug 26, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Danielle Villarreal was one of the activists who began protesting while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addressed the crowd
  • Danielle Villarreal was one of the activists who began protesting while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addressed the crowd
(UPDATE) An hour and a half into Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Coalition event at the Tampa Theatre on Sunday afternoon, seven protesters were ejected after they shouted and demonstrated during Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's speech (CL originally reported that six were thrown out of the event).

The seven were "trespassed" but not arrested. This means they were banned from entering the classic indie film showcase for a year, but will have nothing put on their arrest record.

Chicago area activist Danielle Villarreal was in the balcony when she unveiled a banner that read, "Walker hates working families." She and three other people in the balcony were then escorted out by security, along with two others near the front rows stage right.

Walker inflamed liberals, and in particular organized laborers, with his controversial strategy to curb state spending, which included eliminating union rights for most public workers.

Tampa resident Tyler Mitchell said another banner read, "Walker has a Koch Problem."

That was a reference to Charles and Dave Koch, the conservative billionaire brothers who donate to a number of conservative causes (and had for years before the New Yorker's Jane Mayer exposed their work). It's reported that Americans for Prosperity, the tax-exempt nonprofit David Koch founded, gave $3 million to Walker who earlier this year tried to beat back the effort to recall him.

Although there were a number of speakers who provided conservative red-meat to the near capacity crowd that filled the Tampa Theater (many of whom were bused in from a location CL was unable to verify), Mitchell said that the reason they went after Walker was because of his hostility to public-sector unions. He told reporters that he believed Walker won the recall in June because of the unusual state law that allowed him to raise funds without limits on the size of donations. Whereas the campaign of Tom Barrett — the Democrat trying to upend him — was limited to $10,000 per donor.

"People really need to be aware of this infiltration of private interests into our government," he said.

The seizing of the protesters shined a light on the thousands of police imported to provide additional security during the convention. Along with the thousand Tampa and Hillsborough County officers, there are 3,000 law enforcement officers that have come from different Florida agencies.

Villarreal and the others stood outside on Franklin Street while the officers (this group was all from Marion County) ran their IDs. She engaged in a light conversation with one officer, explaining why she protested the Wisconsin governor.

"When you end up having politicians being funded by billionaires you don't get representative politics," she said, prompting the officer to mention a Robin Williams movie where Williams' character runs for president.

"He made the joke that politicians should wear suits that list all of their supporters," said the officer, referring to a line in the movie about politicians wearing NASCAR style uniforms.

Villarreal laughed. "I agree," she said. "That would be wonderful, if we could see very clearly who were behind these guys."

"Google that for me," the officer said to this reporter about the title of the film that was on the tip of his lips.

"Man of The Year," he said with satisfaction, referring to the 2006 film that I admittedly had to look up online.

"I would love to know who's behind our politicians. A lot of people don't," Villarreal said.

The Faith & Freedom Celebration was an event produced by Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Coalition that in addition to Reed, featured Newt Gingrich; Phyllis Schlafly, the 88-year-old conservative political commentator gamely addressed the audience; Mike Huckabee; and Texas U.S. Senate GOP nominee, Ted Cruz.

Cruz, a 41-year-old Cuban-American conservative, was by far the most effective speaker on stage. He's young, but it's easy to see why he turns on the conservative base — he's energetically conservative.

He invoked Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac saying he was blessed — this was a heavily religious affair — and that "We can be thankful for Hurricane Isaac. If nothing else, it kept Joe Biden away." These comments elicited huge cheers from the audience. Biden was scheduled to appear in North Tampa Monday morning, but canceled his visit on Friday night when the combination of a potential major storm along with the convention would have forced local law enforcement (which today is statewide, and national if you count the Secret Service) to strain their resources to cover the Veep.

Cruz called ObamaCare an "abomination," blasted President Obama for being against traditional marriage, and said that under the current administration, freedom was under assault.

Although Newt Gingrich received the biggest ovation while entering and exiting the stage, his delivery was muted compared to how CL remembers him from the last 10 days of January, after he achieved the high-water mark of his campaign when he won South Carolina and came down to Florida hoping he could knock off Mitt Romney and completely change the trajectory of the 2011-2011 GOP primary nominating season.

Newt Gingrich at the Tampa Theatre
  • Newt Gingrich at the Tampa Theater
As you'll remember, Romney assaulted Gingrich with a fusillade of negative ads, easily winning on Jan. 31 in Florida — one of the biggest primary victories for Romney in his quest to win the nomination.

In what appeared to be a preview of her RNC address, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was extremely partisan in her remarks, and of course talked about health care. She said that President Obama's success in passing health care reform in 2010 was the catalyst that compelled her to leave the Hillsborough County State Attorney's office at 44 and run for office.

"No one saw the curve ball that Justice Roberts threw at us," she said, referring to the Supreme Court Justice's shocking ruling earlier this summer that upheld the health care bill as constitutional. "How many times did you hear that this wasn't a tax?" she added, referring to Roberts' opinion that it's constitutional for the government to levy a tax on people who do not buy health insurance.

You'll probably hear that again if you catch Bondi during the RNC, which begins in full on Tuesday night.

(Correction: CL originally reported that six people were trespassed. Also, we juxtaposed who held the banners mentioned above.

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