Organizations combine forces to protest GOP debate in Tampa listen09/13/11 Janelle Irwin
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The Republican debate drew a crowd of about 150 protestors at the Florida State Fairgrounds last night. Supporters from several advocacy groups pulled together to send a message to voters and tea party supporters. Progressives, democrats and even some socialists came together to let their voices be heard.
Republican presidential hopefuls took part in a debate outlining their preferred policies. The ensuing protest outside brought advocates for multiple causes out in full force. One sign read, “tea parties are for little girls”. Jay D Alexander showed up with a stack of anti-war signs, but said he’s particularly appalled with some candidates’ plans for social security.
Sara Kilker didn’t stake claim to any organization in particular. It was comments made by Rick Perry and the GOP reaction that motivated her to join the group.
A USF student held a sign that said “keep your laws off my body”. She said opportunities to protest are the only way to fight for her reproductive rights.
A group of environmentalists from USF St. Petersburg came dressed in green and wearing masks. Lauren Reilly is a delegate for SEAS, the Student Environmental Awareness Society. She said tea party candidates are not doing their part to ensure environmental safety.
The large-scale protest was organized in part by homeless advocate Bruce Wright. In a planning meeting the day before the scheduled event, Wright said he’s tired of right wing politicians putting profits before people. He said there are a lot of reasons to protest GOP policies and opposing voices need to be heard.
But most of those gathered didn’t think their voices were being heard. Efforts to assemble near ticket holders coming and going from the event were limited. A campaign visibility area was set up away from where attendees were entering or exiting and even further away from media outlets. Wright attempted to make contact with CNN, the news outlet hosting the event, but was turned away by police. Mike Fox, member of the St. Petersburg Young Democrats said the positioning of protestors made it difficult to be seen.
And not everyone with a sign was against the Republican candidates. Two dozen or so people stood along medians and sidewalks urging passing motorists to honk for their candidates. One Mitt Romney supporter parked alongside the anti-tea partiers. Dixie Eklund said supporters of GOP candidates shouldn’t be the minority. She said she supports Romney for his success as Governor of Massachusetts.
Demonstrators were given a two-page list of guidelines to follow while exercising their first amendment rights. The outline cautioned gatherers to avoid demonstrations along sidewalks and other common areas. The supporters of candidates in the debate outside the fairground entrance were not asked to move.