Activists protest Petraeus appearance

01/15/10 Tom Baur
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Thursday evening protesters gathered in front of the Rennaisance Vinoy Resort to denounce the St Petersburg Chamber of Commerce for choosing Central Command General David H Petraeus to give the keynote speech at their 110th annual dinner.

It was a great day for a protest at St Petersburg’s Straub park on the shores of Tampa Bay. 68 degrees, crystal blue clear sky, light wind, and a stunning chamber of commerce sunset.

At least 50 people from The Veterans for Peace and St Pete for Peace gathered in front of the Vinoy to protest General Petraeus’s appearance. According to the protesters' literature, they were there to denounce the St. Petersburg Chamber for pushing to restrict civil liberties at Baywalk, and for choosing a "war-maker" to promote business. They said they were also there to "support the troops who refuse to take part in war crimes".

Protester Rachelle VanWyk stood with her hand-made sign next to the seawall at the Vinoy Yacht basin.

Dina Formentini joined the protest to denounce Baywalk and the city of St Petersburg for restricting civil liberties.

One gentleman, Lawrence, who lives in a condo nearby, came out to protest the protesters.

Inside the opulent Vinoy the Chamber’s annual dinner was a sell-out. They gave praise to former Mayor Rick Baker for his 9 years leading St Petersburg. But, the excitement and anticipation was obviously mainly for the General. And, when General David H. Petraeus made his entrance and went to the podium, the crowd stood and gave enthusiastic applause. In his short speech General Petraeus avoided controversy and talked about how strategic leaders employ big ideas to achieve success.

General Petraeus left immediately after his speech without taking any questions. The well-heeled crowd headed for the well-laid-out desert tables for coffee and discussion.

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