Protesters gather at Crist's wedding

12/15/08 Concetta DeLuco
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As Gov. Charlie Crist wed Carole Rome at First United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg Friday evening, about 200 demonstrators from different groups gathered across the street at Williams Park to protest the nuptials.

Originally, a silent demonstration and candlelight vigil had been organized by Impact Florida, a group that opposes Amendment 2, which banned gay marriage in the state. Crist had initially been against the amendment, but then shifted and became an outspoken proponent for the bill, which passed with only a 1.9 percent margin, above the 60 percent required to pass.

Angelina Sposito, a member of Impact Florida said she was there to let Crist know that people in the gay and lesbian community want the same rights that he was allowed to exercise with his marriage.

The peaceful campaign, however, was upended when members of the Uhuru movement joined the demonstration and took a more boisterous approach, chanting “No justice for the African Community? No Peace for Charlie Crist.”

Kobina Bantu Shango is with the Uhurus and is a southeast representative for the African People’s Socialist Party. He said the Uhurus were there to demand reparations for the wrongful shooting of 17-year-old Javon Dawson at a graduation party in June, as well as other members of the African American community that “have been wrongly murdered by the police.”

As the joint demonstration moved to the Vinoy Resort, members from the Uhurus and Impact Florida parted ways and occupied different sides of the street, facing the hotel.

Protesting the gay, lesbian and transgendered demonstrators was Larry Keffer, an anti-gay, religious activist. The crowd became highly agitated and tensions flared as Keffer brazenly preached his beliefs about the God and the gay community over his loud speaker. Keffer said he was there because he wanted to save members of the gay community and “reconcile the lost.”

Carol Boyce was slightly annoyed with the way the demonstration turned out. She said the purpose of the silent vigil was “to congratulate Charlie Crist on his marriage and passively make the statement that all people want the same rights.” She said, it was not intended to “disrupt the wedding,” she said.

Among the protestors with Impact Florida, Camille Hopkins is a post-op transgendered woman. She said, “people have the right to be who they are and it shouldn’t be taken away by any law.”

And even though the demonstration was not as passive as was it intended to be, it was still relatively peaceful; no arrests were made. In the future, Impact Florida will continue to take action toward obtaining marriage equality for all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

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