In Tampa activists rally against voter suppression
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08/29/12 Liz McKibbon
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Bicycle police patrol parade route borders in Ybor City.


photo by Liz McKibbon

Republicans have been outspoken about battling supposed voter fraud in elections. The Florida Consumer Action Network hosted speeches and a march last night in Ybor City in protest of increased voting regulations. Voter suppression concerns focused on immigrants and African Americans.

In recent years, ten states have added photo identification to the list of requirements necessary to vote or to register to vote. Republicans say the increased regulations are essential to maintaining integrity at the polls. Many of the speakers for the event disagreed, including Gabriella, an undocumented activist with presente.org.

“And they’re passing these laws saying they’re trying to stop non-citizens from voting—undocumented people from voting, but we know that’s a lie. In addition to fines and imprisonment, undocumented people risk deportation if they were to try to register to vote. We know that’s not happening. And voter fraud is a myth.”

Media and protesters congregated to hear other lectures from the Centennial Park stage. Erica Andiola is an undocumented American. She was born in Mexico, but moved to Arizona with her mother and four siblings.

“She came to a state—that through history now—has been telling my mother that she is a criminal, that she is a smuggler, that she is a drug trafficker. But she’s not, she’s my hero, she’s my mother. [Applause] I was only eleven years old when she brought me here.”

Andiola is now eligible for a work permit under President Barack Obama’s new deferred action policy. She still had to pay out-of-state college tuition rates due to her residency status and is not eligible to vote. She said immigration was not easy, and can remember selling tamales on the street corner to make ends meet.

“And then I went to school. And then I started listening to all of my counselors and teachers that were like, ‘Wow, Erica, you are—you know you are a really bright woman and we know you’re going to do so much.’ But then, I came to my senior year. And those same people that were telling me and encouraging me to keep going said ‘Whoa! We just found out you don’t have a social security number.’”

Some speakers criticized Republican Florida governor Rick Scott, including local activist Ella Coffee. She condemned Scott’s drug testing requirement for welfare recipients. State data showed that regulation resulted in no fiscal savings and did not have any effect on the number of applicants.

“Who restricts voting? Why would you not want more citizens of this land to vote? [Spanish translation] Former President Clinton said he has never in his lifetime seen the determined effort to limit enfranchising. The governor said that shortening of the early voting days would cut back on the budget. Well, we’ve heard that before. Remember drug testing? How that would cut back on the budget? Ask Scott how well that’s worked out for him.”

Green Party vice Presidential candidate Cheri Honkala also took to the stage. Honkala was critical of Democrats as well as Republicans.

“It was under the Obama Administration that we saw the majority of the undocumented immigrants deported. It was under the Obama Administration that we saw the same amount of money as George W. Bush, spending on the military.”

The crowd grew to more than 500 people and a march through Ybor City followed the presentations. Patrons of many local businesses along the route came out to watch the parade and snap photos. An 8 foot tall Mitt Romney puppet led the group. Kathy Morris is one of the creators of the puppet and went to great lengths to make sure the design stayed within city ordinances.

“It’s made of papier mâché* and sticks that are 2” by ¼”, which was the required code—within the Green Zone. It’s also made out of packing peanuts for the arms inside—the stuffing material. And of course the head is the papier mâché* part.”

Participants carried signs and played instruments along the route. Nadine Hays traveled from Los Angeles for the convention and says she’s running for president. She shouted from her megaphone along the way, thanking police officers for their politeness.

“You know how America was founded? America was known as the melting pot, because we formed our country as immigrants! Isn’t it interesting now that the government gets to choose which immigrants are legal and which ones are illegal.”

A helicopter hovered overhead throughout the event and more than 50 police officers were present, but the rally concluded without arrest or incident.

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Comments

Solid reporting

Thanks for this. Thorough and thoughtful.