Republican convention protesters say they won't be scared off by tropical storm
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08/22/12 Janelle Irwin
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Members of the Coalition to March on the RNC are making final preparations for their rain or shine march on the first day of the Republican convention.


photo by Janelle Irwin

Some forecast models predict Tropical Storm Isaac could affect Tampa during the Republican National Convention. Most of the secure area cordoned off for the event is in the first evacuation zone. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told CNN this morning that the city has been preparing for hurricane contingencies and will evacuate the area if needed.

“Absolutely we’re prepared to call it off. I mean, human safety and human life trumps politics….the only difference will be that there’s a few more people here.”

Effects of the storm might be felt in the Tampa area Monday, the first day of the Republican convention. That’s the day Coalition to March on the RNC is planning a demonstration with as many as 5,000 people. They originally projected fewer, but Corey Uhl, an activist with the group, said the estimates were adjusted to reflect previous protests.

“They under-estimated how many protester they would have at for the Coalition to March against NATO back in May. I think they not quite doubled their size, but it was pretty close.”

But if a storm makes landfall in the area during the convention, some people would likely opt out.

“There’s things we can control and there’s things that we can’t.”

Mick Kelly is a spokesperson for the coalition. He said the event will go on, rain or shine.

“That said, I know a lot of people have ponchos already and we’ve been purchasing some. I know that people in Florida have hats and I know that people will be wearing them.”

The group is setting up shop at Perry Harvey Senior Park on Scott Street just south of Interstate-275. They’ll have a stage and numerous tents set up. It’s not getting wet that’s the issue – it’s getting blown around by possible hurricane-strength wind. Kelly said they haven’t nailed down specific plans yet because the outcome is still uncertain, but the group is trying to be proactive.

“And we’re currently working with the vendors, the people who actually erect the physical infrastructure, to deal logistically with any problems.”

The group will march from the park toward the city’s established parade route. From there, they will follow that route to the designated protest area. It’s about four blocks away from the Tampa Bay Times Forum where Republicans will officially announce Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate. Even if the Coalition has to forgo any physical structures, Corey Uhl, who is also an organizer with Students for a Democratic Society, said they won’t cancel their plans to march.

“There will be nothing that will stop us from marching in the streets to demand good jobs, healthcare, affordable education, equality and peace and to oppose the party of legitimate rape.”

Uhl is referring to a recent statement made by Senate candidate Todd Akin in Missouri where he said a woman’s body can reject a pregnancy in the case of a “legitimate rape.” He has apologized for the remark. Prominent Republicans have called for Akin to drop out of the Senate race, including Mitt Romney. Coalition spokesperson Kelly said those kinds of Republican plans are causing mounting disdain against the GOP.

“Around the United States there’s growing anger at the Republican agenda and at the program and plans of the 1% and on the 27th, the opening day of the convention, this park will be filled with people who say no, who have said they’ve had enough.”

The coalition has five specific grievances – jobs, healthcare, affordable education, equality and peace. Today the group was joined by a member of the LGBTQ community, Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez. He said there’s some hypocrisy in the fact that Republicans want to give unborn fetuses the same rights as humans.

“And yet, they refuse to endorse not even civil unions for LGBTQ people. That means they believe in more rights before we are born than after we are born.”

Sousa-Rodriguez said many of his friends and family have recently gained U.S. citizenship so he also represents the Latin community.

“all of these people will be coming out to the ballots and asking who is with equality, who is going to vote with the people like Felipe, someone I love and cherish.”

The coalition is gathering in the park starting at 10 a.m. on Monday and plan to march at noon. They will announce the exact route on Thursday after the Tampa Police Department approves one.




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