In St. Pete, Mitt Romney protesters say he's not the guy for the job
At an early morning rally in downtown St. Petersburg this morning, Mitt Romney told supporters he wants to cut government spending. More than 25 demonstrators lined the street in front of the Mirror Lake Lyceum to protest the presidential hopeful’s policies.
"I’m so disillusioned that I don’t’ even know if I’m going to vote.”
Maria Agosto spent a half an hour shouting messages from the sidewalk across the brick road in front of where the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was about to speak.
“…our economy depends on natural resources that are being depleted.”
After winning 16 delegates in Oregon yesterday, Romney only needs 155 more to secure the Republican nomination. He also won the presidential preference primary in Nebraska, but no delegates were awarded. Romney is expected to have the 1,144 needed delegates by the end of the month. Inside the Lyceum, he rallied his supporters by calling the Obama administration a “disappointment at best”. One of the first things he promised them was to help the U.S. gain energy independence.
“If we will invest in those things and get the energy to where people need it, we can have low cost energy in this country and if we do that, we’ll have manufacturers come back here to take advantage of it.”
Agosto said she was fed up with unfair tax burdens on the middle class. She added that it’s all possible because of the power of corporate money.
“That was the tipping of the scale, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. When they were allowed to just blatantly purchase legislation by purchasing the legislators, our chance for any kind of balance in government got lost.”
Curtis Hunt lay down on the sidewalk next to Romney supporters covered by a red carpet. He said it symbolized how businessmen like Romney got rich on the backs of the poor and middle class.
“We’re being screwed over by more than just Mitt Romney. A lot of people out here are upset about people that they know nothing of the same way they don’t know where their money came from – whether it was their great grandparents or something like that. And quite frankly, we’ve got to come up first because we’re part of this society. I mean, if I’m out there roofing and breaking my back everyday and I can’t go home to my flat screen TV in my giant house in some pink street, why should I sit here and be looked at like I’m lesser for working my butt off and working my butt off for slum lords for God’s sake.”
But the bottom line was just one simple thing.
“This is not the right candidate for us.”
Shane McKinney from the group Fight Back Florida said he focuses on issues like higher taxes on the middle class, high unemployment rates and cuts to vital services.
“Mitt Romney does not have the issues of the middle class in sight. He’s pretty much bought and sold by these corporate interests.”
And as protesters stood outside in the rain to demand funding for social service programs, Romney vowed to cut as many unnecessary expenses as possible from an air conditioned ballroom.
“I’m going to get America on track to have a balanced budget by getting rid of some programs, by sending programs back to state’s where they can be run more efficiently.”
The responses from Romney’s guests were quiet, save for the occasional remark. One couple whose three young children accompanied them to the event told their kids that the people lying on the ground were why they needed to do well in school. Long-time progressive activist and Florida Consumer Action Network supporter Bill Hurley disagreed with their particular brand of parenting.
“I think that’s just another lie that they’re telling their children because these people work. I work. I work, I go to school and I’m out here protesting against people like him. And I wish they’d show their kids what’s really happening in the world.”
Another group snickered just feet from where Hurley stood.
“They might think this is funny – we’re walking on the 99% - but it’s not. It’s to show them that’s how Mitt Romney got where he’s at. The man that his line is ‘I like to fire people’ should not be the president of the United States.”
And there was one thing missing from the usual scene around Mirror Lake – its dense population of people without homes. Usually they are sprawled along the lake’s bank or lined up for a lunch provided by various charities. Chuck Terzian with Occupy St. Pete said he heard from a friend who lives in the neighborhood that group of people had been temporarily relocated.
“In the last 24-hours people from the city, he thinks, have been cleaning up the neighborhood massively and painting garbage cans to make everything look better and getting the homeless out of Mirror Lake because it’s a place where a lot of them congregate normally. They’re basically just trying to clean up the image of the area so as not to offend the constituency of Mitt Romney.”
Terzian said he appreciates efforts to clean up neighborhoods, but not if it’s only done to impress a rich politician. Inquiries to police officers about whether or not a clean up was actually undertaken were not answered. Romney’s campaign staff did not respond to interview requests.
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