Aug 27, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from The Tampa Bay Times: TAMPA — Dozens of law enforcement officers swarmed to Perry Harvey, Sr. Park on Monday during the Coalition to March on the RNC when several people wearing all black clothing arrived at the rally.
“There are some potential troublemakers mixed in,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Sheriff David Gee.
Officers and deputies kept a close eye on those protesters, apparently using Black Bloc tactics, as they marched toward the Tampa Bay Times Forum. National Guard officials watched overhead from an overpass near Nebraska Avenue. Some law enforcement officers videotaped the protest.
Just after 1 p.m., after protesters reached the forum, they veered off the designated route, some of them running. Officers speed-walked to keep up with them. An officer yelled, “Don’t run.”
Earlier on Monday, organizers had arrived at the park to kick off the Coalition to March on the RNC on Monday. About 5,000 demonstrators were expected.
But by midmorning, as Tampa felt some minor effects from Tropical Storm Isaac, the number of protesters out at Perry Harvey, Sr. Park didn’t reach 500. There were as many journalists as there were protesters.
“We all know the weather has affected the turnout of this march,” said organizer Mick Kelly. “We have a turnout that’s a little bit lower, okay, a lot lower, than we were expecting.”
But, Kelly added, “what matters is that we’re still here speaking out.”
Organizers said the low turnout was also due to buses, including two from Jacksonville, that cancelled the trips because of the weather.
Michela Martinazzi, 20, of Dunedin, said she was trying to organize carpools from other cities in Florida, including Tallahassee, but most fell through. About 40 people signed up for carpools from Gainesville, but only 12 arrived to the march, she said.
Protesters appear ready for the rain, many of them wearing hats, ponchos and jackets. Members from CodePink and Food Not Bombs were among the crowd.
As rain pelted down in downtown Tampa, some of the crowd began to disperse as people headed for cover under trees and inside vans.
“Honestly,” said Ilene Goldstein, 56, an unemployed waitress part of Occupy Gainesville, “I was more concerned about the militarization of local police and what they might do to us than the storm and what it might do to us.”
Members of the organization, Students for a Democratic Society, chanted: “Education is a right. Fight. Fight. Fight. Fight. Fight.”
Protesters continued to arrive in small numbers as the crowd planned to march to the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“The place where Republicans themselves fled from,” Kelly said.