A GOP convention protester's playbook covers pepper spray, prison time
Maria Agosto ducked into the back of an Orthodox church in Childs Park, pulling her hand-knitted pink scarf tighter as she settled in for three hours of protester training camp.
It was early March in St. Petersburg, dark outside. A cold breeze rattled the blinds as nine people silently passed around a stack of coffee-stained booklets: Handbook for Nonviolent Action.
A slender man in his mid 30s introduced himself as Grommit. It was not his real name.
"Doing direct actions changes something in your soul," Grommit said. "It changes how you perceive yourself."
Once, he had been a radical activist, climbing trees and cranes to drop banners for organizations like Earth First and the Ruckus Society. Now he had a wife, a 2-year-old, a paycheck he didn't want to risk. Instead, he educated protesters.
"I try to prepare people for what they are getting into."
The Republican National Convention is the protesting big leagues. The police and Secret Service will aggressively keep order. Penalties will be more severe. Several antiwar protesters from the 2008 Republican National Convention were charged with terrorism.
"You must decide who is going to be arrestable," Grommit said.