Coalition to March on the RNC holds organizing meeting at USF in Tampa

06/18/12 Michelle Friedline and Seán Kinane
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The Coalition to March on the RNC is solidifying its plans to march on the first day of the Republican Convention in August. On Saturday Representatives from community and student groups from around Florida and as far away as Atlanta and Asheville traveled to the University of South Florida in Tampa to learn tactics used in past large-scale protests which they could apply this year to increase their numbers and effectively maintain a strong presence. Mick Kelly, an activist in the anti-war and labor movements spoke about his experience at the 2008 Republican convention in St. Paul and stressed creating a strong media campaign.

“The slogan that y’all have united around, and we've united around it too, around jobs, education, healthcare, peace, and equality is actually an extremely good message and we had a very similar approach in the Twin Cities. Our experience was it was of vital importance that we had a very centralized press operation. I think we had something like a dozen people set up to continuously do interviews, a tent that was set up, we had a whole program basically to steer the press towards exactly the message that we wanted them to take away.

“Really in 10 weeks, a relatively short period of time, you here in Florida and us around the United States joining you are actually going to step onto the stage of world history. We know that the entire attention of the media and people around the world are going to be looking to see what happens here in Tampa, Florida. And we have a test that we need to pass, in order to pass this test our orientation needs to be extremely practical and that was the whole experience we found in the 2008 National Convention.”

A spokesperson from the Welfare Rights Committee, Angel Buechner, traveled from Minneapolis to share her success including the voices of low-income families at the 2008 convention with the message of funding human needs before war.

“It was vital for us to be there. And we were there with our families, we brought kids to the protest... we brought all of our kids to the protest, literally.”

She offered support to Tampa this year.

“It was awesome to be in the center of that... and to push forward our agenda as poor people to have a voice to march and to also make sure that people know that, low-income, we're not going to take anything laying down. We're going to stand up and fight back. And it was an awesome time, 2008, it was great. I'm ready to be here in Tampa. I'll bring all of my kids to march. We'll be here in strong force, just call our name, Welfare Rights, we got your back, Tampa.”

Diana Moreno, is a feminist organizer in Gainesville with the National Woman's Liberation and is the coordinator for the Alachua County Labor Party. Moreno said she feels the Republican Party has always infringed upon her rights as an immigrant, a worker and a woman. She wants to return with information to propose that both organizations endorse the Coalition.

“I've been keeping up with the Coalition to March on the RNC simply by reading about their struggle to get permits from the city and just keeping up with the news, but I haven't been actively involved in organizing until today.

“I'm going to try and be a liaison between the Gainesville organizations that I'm a part of and the Coalition to March on the RNC. Specifically, the way that we can participate, I think bringing as many people down as possible during the protest can be the best way since I do not live in Tampa, it would be very hard for me to help out with the logistics but I can help by bringing my town of Gainesville into the RNC.”

One founder of the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda, Joe Iosbaker, encouraged the group by suggesting that obtaining permits to march during the NATO Summit in Chicago in May helped expand their protest group.

“Militancy, it actually is a good thing. We organized a permitted march, not because we believed permitted marches are going to bring an end to war and austerity. We did it because it was necessary to bring the broadest number of forces into activity. Jessie Jackson was going to join a non-permitted march. The Unions were not going to endorse a non-permitted march. In order to get those forces, the Arab and Muslim community, the African-American and Latino organizations that we got involved, we had to have a permit for that march. That militancy actually carries a lesson, which is that the changes that we need are going to take more than the permitted marches. And that is a lesson we agree with.”

“The last thing I want to say is that the struggle you're engaged in here in Florida for a permit to march on the RNC, you're going to win that fight. You will win, you will get permits. I believe this, your cause is just, your slogans are broad and eventually you're going to win that fight. Your march is going to be an important and historic action, a blow against the enemy, against Republicans and the corporations and the criminal banksters that are behind them. And your march will be a victory for the people's forces and I Iook forward to marching with you.”

But Debra Hedding, a representative from Veterans for Peace says her national organization is hesitant to come to Tampa in large numbers.

“I'm a Vietnam and Dessert Storm veteran of the US Air Force, a retired Air Force officer and I've been with Veterans for Peace for about 12 years now. I'm very interested in seeing Veterans for Peace and other progressive organizations have a successful protest in Tampa, in spite of Tampa.

“What we're running into are folks from other parts of the country with Veterans for Peace that are reluctant to come to Tampa because the city has thrown out the unwelcome mat, if you will, to protestors and really is making such a concerted effort to step on the First Amendment. Some folks are saying 'Well we think we can get our message across better at the DNC. Not everyone can go to both and so we have to look at how we can allocate our resources. We are absolutely outraged at the way the City of Tampa is handling the protests and the groups and so forth that want to come and get their message out.

“Maybe I can share some of the lessons learned from the people going to the DNC. I'm envious because Charlotte is actually welcoming protestors. They are celebrating the First Amendment there whereas Tampa seems to be going the opposite direction and is throwing as many road blocks as they possibly can at the protest groups. I can't believe that Tampa wants to have a reputation as not supporting democracy. It's just absolutely un-American.”

The Coalition to March on the RNC is holding its permitted march on Monday August 27.

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