Organizers had predicted a turnout of thousands at a rally in a Tampa park Monday morning to protest Republican policies.
They ended up getting a better showing, as least early on, from the members of the media desperate to cover something — anything — on what was to have been the opening day of the Republican National Convention.
Gusty winds left over from tropical storm Isaac, a steady drizzle and canceled charter buses translated into fewer than 200 protesters ultimately taking to the streets to march to the convention site.
“I think people are apprehensive about the weather,” said Angel Buechner, 39, a welfare rights organizer from Minneapolis who was wearing a t-shirt that read, “Time to Eat the Rich.”
“But there are things other than the weather preventing us from excelling,” she said, and, staying politely on message, adding: “Like Republicans.”
Gaggles of bored bicycle police were posted at the four corners of grassy Perry Harvey Sr. Park and a helicopter hovered overhead while speakers ranging from union and peace activists, to immigrant and women rights activists worked to fire up the soggy crowd.
The messages largely focused on the effect of Washington policy on the middle class and poor, particularly in the areas of education and health care.
“We’re trying to build someone above any political party because equality should be above political parties,” said Jonathan Alingu, 24, an economics major at the University of Central Florida and a student labor activist.
The sharpest rhetoric came from Green Party vice presidential candidate Cheri Honkala, who extended her message to the Obama administration, too.
“Don’t go vote for the goddamn less of two evils,” she said. “The hell with our corporate dominated parties.”
“Tunisia,” she said, “can happen in America.” It was in Tunisia, after a desperate man set himself afire, that the Arab Spring uprisings began.
As volunteers passed plastic buckets for donations, Michela Martinazzi, 20, a University of Florida student, talked about why Obama is only marginally more popular with the left-wing coalition that refers to itself as the 99 percent.
“President Obama ran a campaign based on promises in 2008, and he made us all hopeful,” she said. “But he has disappointed.”
Will she vote in the fall?
“Unfortunately,” said Martinazzi, an art history and French major, “I’m going to have to vote for Obama. At least he’s not trying to defund Planned Parenthood and take away choice.”
She said, however, the protesters next week will head to Charlotte, and turn their focus to the Democrats, and Obama.