Death of Democracy protest at RNC kick-off party draws more than 1,000 grieving protesters
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08/27/12 Janelle Irwin
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More than 1,000 activists from around the country took to the streets in St. Petersburg yesterday in protest of Republican policies. Marches were planned by two different groups the night before the Republican National Convention begins. But all of the demonstrators came together for one march with an endless list of complaints. Warren Lundquist traveled from Palm Bay on Florida’s west coast with signs saying Mitt Romney should run for president of China, not the U.S. He said he’s not crazy about the Democrats either.

“There [is] very few politicians on either side that actually represents the working class. And somebody says why are you a Democrat? I said, because they screwed us less than the Republicans did.”

Most of the protesters arrived at St. Pete’s Mirror Lake Park by bus. Some of them came from as far as California in support of the Occupy Movement’s 99-percenter philosophy. They marched from the park to the fenced-off public viewing area east of Tropicana Field where delegates and media were being treated to dinner, drinks and live entertainment. The so-called kick-off party welcomed Republicans and journalists to the 4-day event that will announce former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as their presidential nominee.

“I think he has a lot of nerve running for president of the United States.”

That was Jennifer Kenny, the Florida organizer for Alliance for Retired Americans. She said she didn’t like Romney from the start, but she was even more turned off when he chose member of Congress Paul Ryan as his running mate.

“I think a lot of Americans aren’t aware of that Paul Ryan is the author of this Ryan budget which will actually end Medicare as we know it, force the working class people to work until they’re 70 years of age before they’ll be eligible for social security.”

And David Demske carried a bouquet of black silk roses. He was there to march for the death of democracy.

“We’re finding out that the middle class is being – going to lose a lot of rights, a lot of things that are human rights.”

His wife Dixie sat beside him on a park bench overlooking the lake. She said a lot of the democratic injustices she sees are a result of the controversial Citizens United ruling that allows corporations to contribute unlimited funds into political action committees. They’re called Super PACs and it’s where the bulk of Mitt Romney’s campaign funding comes from.

“How can a decent person who doesn’t have those kind of connections win an election even if we want them there? They saturate the market. People will vote against their own best interest because they heard something on TV.”

Alice Sturm Sutter opposes the Citizens United ruling too. So much so, she sang a song about it and all the other reasons she loathes the Republican Party.

Sturm Sutter traveled from New York to the Tampa Bay area because she’s sick of politicians raising gobs of money to fund what she sees as one big lie.

“Well, it’s really important to expose the RNC for what it is because the RNC is using tons of corporate money to put out a message to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes.”

Another protester used a game of chess to get his message across. The catch was there were only pawns on the chess board. The protester called himself James Bomfree with a chuckle that suggested it was not his real name.

“It’s a way of demonstrating that the middle class is shrinking and the 1% is growing at the expense of all the pawns. And jobs aren’t just jobs, jobs are often exploitation and we need more people to gather together and make the middle class grow and unions to stand up for our rights in the workplace.”

Every demonstrator had an angle. From a giant *papier mâché* Mitt Romney puppet to toilet seats telling prominent conservatives to flush themselves down the potty - everyone had their own creative niche. Veterans for Peace member Don McKeating had an American flag. It doesn’t sound too exciting, but his flag had corporate emblems like the Nike check and the famous McDonald’s golden arches where the stars are supposed to be. He calls it a real American flag, but said unfortunately, people seldom notice the change.

“We were supporting the June-teenth celebration with the black community and the army was there too to support. So, the officials of the parade were a little worried about us being in front, but they saw me with this flag and they said, ‘you with the American flag, march in front of the army.’ So, I got to march in front of the United States Army with my corporate flag and only the kids could see the difference.”

The event drew enough people to fill the street of one whole city block and then some. Organizers from the Florida Consumer Action network who planned a faith-based rally before marching said they wanted the event to be family friendly.

But their good intentions didn’t stop the city of St. Petersburg from beefing up security in downtown. Barricades established a secured parade route for the group and police officers stood in groups of 5 to ten on every street corner along the path. Jay Shaft is an activist who has some experience with large scale protests. He wore a shirt that said cop watch.

“I felt to show up with this shirt today would at least give them the message that we’re looking at you. We’re going to watch and see that you don’t go crazy like in Miami and Minnesota. I was in Minneapolis and Denver. It wasn’t bad, but it was bad enough that it was brutal.”

During the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, videos surfaced of police officers using things like pepper spray and rubber bullets to subdue demonstrators. Officials here have claimed the revved up police presence is only a precaution against so-called anarchists who come to cause problems. Justin is an anarchist.

“No longer do we live in a democracy where we have a choice between anybody other than corporate person A or corporate person B and Romney is one of the best examples of exactly that. We only have business men running the country and all they care about is profit. We don’t live in a democracy.”

Justin did not give his last name. He was one of a dozen protesters who wore all black and covered their faces with bandanas. The group also avoided being photographed with their face showing. After the march went by without a peep from police, that group locked arms and marched along Central Avenue. Police quickly responded by creating road blocks with their bikes and the group dispersed.

Complete RNC coverage by WMNF News







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