Tampa, FL - 300 protesters rallied and marched against the Republican Party at the primary debate in Tampa, Jan. 23. The protest began with a rally at the University of South Florida's Administration Building. The groups, part of the Coalition to March on the RNC, included Students for a Democratic Society, local affiliates of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Occupy Tampa, Fight Back Florida and Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
The rally began with speakers denouncing the Republican Party for spearheading the attacks on working people, unions, students and immigrants, at its most extreme in Wisconsin and Florida. Speakers placed the responsibility for the economic crisis on the rich and Wall Street. Reverend Charles McKenzie of the Rainbow Push Coalition spoke to a crowd of hundreds, “Bankers got bailed out, we got sold out...We need to occupy, we need revolution in this country!”
From the campus Administration Building, the crowd pushed towards the theater where the Republican debate was starting. Marching across Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, they chanted, “Show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like.”
As the crowd reached the theater, even more gathered to protest. Protesters were met with barricades and police surrounding the entire building. The crowd continued chanting with slogans like “Tax the rich!” and “They say cut back, we say fight back!” Looking for a way inside the theater, the crowd circled the building for an opening. Swarms of police officers met the crowd to block them from entering. With the entire building barricaded, the crowd reassembled on the MLK Plaza for a second round of speeches.
Members of SDS spoke of how the Republican Party relentlessly attacks both students and workers. How rising tuition costs, the demand for good jobs and the economic crisis are aggravated by the wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq - started by the Republican Party and continuing today.
During the speeches by young people with Occupy Tampa and SDS, a group of Tea Party types tried to break through the protest rally. Led by Pastor Terry Jones, the racist Quran-burning preacher of Gainesville, Florida, the right-wingers held homophobic and anti-Muslim signs. The Tea Party protesters, tepid and weak, were no match for the much younger and vibrant crowd of protesters. The Tea Party types were forced away from the rally to chants of, “No more hate!”.
Next, after the confrontation with the hate mongers, Marisol Marquez spoke on behalf of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. She told the crowd about Carlos Montes, a long time Chicano activist raided by the FBI for his involvement with anti-war activism and organizing at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Carlos Montes is due to go on trial for an incident that happened over 40 years ago.
Closing the protest, Dustin Ponder, a member of Fight Back Florida and spokesperson for the Coalition to March on the RNC, asked others to sign on to the Coalition. The Coalition consists of labor unions, low-income community organizations, student groups, immigrants rights groups, as well as many other social justice groups. The point is to unite all those who can be united in order to combat the attacks of the Republican agenda. The Coalition to March on the RNC is planning a protest march of thousands on Monday, August 27, 2012, when Tampa hosts the Republican National Convention.