Unfazed by dreary weather and the cancellation of Monday's RNC events, nearly 1,000 participants marched toward the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Monday afternoon.
According to organizers, the Coalition to March on the RNC — the first scheduled protest for this week — included more than 70 activist groups made up of community and student organizations, labor unions, anti-war groups, and several Occupy chapters from around Florida.
“Every person here has a reason to be proud for facing adversity,“ said Mick Kelly, a spokesperson for the march.
Kelly admitted that the RNC cancellation and the threat of Isaac decreased attendance to about a fifth of the estimated 5,000 people expected to show. He added that plans to bring in people from other parts of the state fell through when bus lines cancelled rides.
The march was preceded by a series of speeches made by activist leaders, as Mitch Perry reported earlier. By noon, groups of people hit the bricks, walking from Harvey Perry Park to "RNC Protest Park" — one of the city’s three designated free speech zones, located just outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum convention hall.
The march remained incident-free as it wound itself through downtown Tampa's streets, largely guided by volunteers in orange vests (and partially led by Hillsborough County police on bikes). Shouts and chants rallied against corporate bailouts, cuts on social services, and the struggles of the 99%. The Tampa Bay Times later reported one arrest.
Dotted throughout the crowd was a handful of “street medics," who offered a range of minor medical services, from cough drops and water to first aid. One medic, who would only identify herself as Jessi from Boston, said they were not affiliated with a single organization, but came from various "collectives" from around the country.
Mayra Hidalgo Salazar is a member of Students Working for Equal Rights, a Florida-based immigrant organization. She said the march was about taking a stand against Romney’s platform on immigration law reform, which she called “insulting." Last week, the Republican Platform Committee drafted a stance on immigration that would include the building of a border fence and the support of a national E-verify system.
“It is absolutely inhumane, it doesn’t take into consideration how many families have U.S.-born children that they are being separated from on a daily basis,” said Salazar, who was brought to the U.S. from Costa Rica when she was a baby.
She added that by taking part in the march, she hoped to shift talk on immigration law from rhetoric to conversation.
“Because this is the country that I consider my home. I’m standing here because I want to see things changing for our community,” she said.
Whether Tropical Storm Isaac will continue to hinder attendance at other protests scheduled for this week remains unknown; but the forecast predicts scattered thunderstorms and wind throughout the rest of the RNC.