Coalition planning to protest at the Republican convention say they will begin their march outside official parade route

08/08/12 Janelle Irwin
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A partnership of activist groups is planning a major march on the first day of the Republican National Convention that doesn’t stick to Tampa’s designated parade route. The Coalition to March on the RNC has been talking with the Tampa Police Department about ways they can safely and legally walk through the streets of downtown toward the designated protest area outside the perimeter of the convention. Corey Uhl, an organizer with the Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society, said police officials have agreed to work something out.

“We submitted several different routes and depending on what works for the day they might have to close a road or something for emergency vehicles passing through, but they said that they would let us pass through a route and we gave them a wish list, so to speak. So, we get to march through the most optimal route on that day.”

Tampa City Council established a specific parade route and tight restrictions for the convention meant to keep the peace amid perceived threats of violence. The city is also bringing in 3,000 police officers for security and the UK newspaper The Independent reported yesterday that an unnamed source confirmed there will be missile launchers on buildings in Tampa similar to what’s being done in London for the Olympics.

Organizers with the Coalition to March on the RNC expect about 5,000 protesters from dozens of local, state and national organizations to participate on August 27. Uhl said the streets will be flooded with protesters as they walk about eight tenths of a mile from the park where they are staging to where the official parade route begins and follow it to the fenced in designated protest area four blocks from the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

“We’re going to have everyone from babies in strollers to retirees – retired trade unionists. There’s going to be college students. There’s going to be members of oppressed nationality communities. People from all over are coming here and America is known as the melting pot for a reason.”

Organizing that many people isn’t easy though. Out-of-towners will need places to sleep as many can’t afford a hotel and others may not even be able to find a vacancy this close to the event. But Jared Hamil, an organizer for the Coalition to March on the RNC, said parking and transportation could also be issues.

“There isn’t a place for 5,000 protesters to park. That’s the problem and the transportation system, as good as it is, it’s not able to actually provide for so many people to get through downtown.”

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority is trying to ease that pain. Street cars between downtown and Ybor City will run until midnight and more frequently based on demand. But for those who chose to forego the headache of finding the right route to get them to the right place, Students for a Democratic Society’s Uhl said Tampa Police have followed through with their promises to make sure walkers stay hydrated in the squelching August heat.

“Members of TPD have committed to providing a water truck here at the park which is mobile as well as water at ‘Protest RNC Square’ which is what we’re calling the Free Speech Zone.”

The Coalition to March on the RNC consists of activists who have all different beefs with Republican priorities. The group has five main focuses – jobs, affordable education, healthcare, equality, and peace. Sky Schmelzer is the student coordinator for the group.

“The Republicans are one of the many physical manifestations of systemic oppression in this country especially when it comes to education rights and students. The students of America can no longer tolerate the ever increasing, record high student debt that haunts the futures of us, the youth, the future generation.”

According to Marisol Marquez from Students Working for Equal Rights, two groups have recently joined the coalition.

“The first one is Get Equal which is a national LGBT rights organization who is fighting for full federal equality now and also for the fourteenth to apply to them just as it applies to our other current citizens. We are excited to be working with them and to be demanding full federal equality – not only for the LGBT community, but also for our undocumented population, young, students or adults.”

The second is a newly formed group that organized in response to the shooting of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer who many think targeted him based on race. Marquez said they call themselves the Dream Defenders.

“That fight systematic racism and is also for going and continuing with the civil rights movement.”

The Coalition to March on the RNC will start their walk from Perry Harvey Senior Park just south of I-275 on Orange Avenue at 10 in the morning on August 27. The group has a permit to assemble in the park with informational booths and portable restroom facilities. More information is on their website.

Organizations with permitted marches:

AFL-CIO - August 29th, 6 - 7:30 pm

Doctors for America - August 30th, 2:15 - 3:45 pm

Florida Consumer Action Network - August 28th, 6 - 7:30 pm and 7:45 - 9:15 pm

Coalition to March on the RNC - August 27th, 12:30 - 3:45 pm

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