TAMPA — City Hall received a last-minute flurry of applications Monday for demonstration spots outside the Republican National Convention, with six groups wanting to reserve Lykes Gaslight Square Park on the RNC's first day.
Depending on who gets the reservation, Lykes Gaslight Square could see a union rally, a prayer vigil, an ice sculpture carved into a political message or a promotional event for Humana health insurance.
To resolve conflicts for parks with more than one request for the same day, city officials plan to hold a lottery in City Council chambers on Friday.
In all, 10 groups have put in bids for about 30 different slots to march, demonstrate or hold rallies during the Aug. 27-30 convention. Their names alone suggest agendas that span the political spectrum: AFL-CIO. Pray Tampa Bay. Planned Parenthood. Coptic Christians Against Persecution. Florida Consumer Action Network.
"What we're hoping to do is have prayer all day long," said Jesten Peters of Pray Tampa Bay, which would bring ministers and groups from St. Petersburg, Bradenton and Citrus County to pray for the city and the convention. Peters said the group doesn't have a partisan or political agenda — "other than we would like God back in our country again" — and will look at another park if it doesn't win the reservation in the lottery.
Other groups are even more diverse than the name on the application suggests.
The Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN) filed a permit request for the second day of the convention on behalf of immigrant, Hispanic and other groups organizing a "March Against Voter Suppression."
Organizers looked at Lykes Gaslight Square, but decided that Centennial Park in Ybor City reflects Tampa's strong immigrant history, FCAN community organizer Kelly Benjamin said. He said the goal will be to highlight Republican efforts, past and present, to suppress the votes of groups that tend not to support the party.
"This isn't just something new that Gov. Rick Scott came up with," Benjamin said. "We're hoping (for) a few thousand. I know that people are planning to come from all over the state of Florida."
Two groups want to reserve Lykes Gaslight Square all four days of the convention. One is Euro RSCG Impact, a for-profit marketing company with headquarters in Chicago that helps corporations build their brands. Its application says it's working with Humana and the company's Freewheelin health and wellness program. The second is Doctors for America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan group of doctors and medical students who advocate for universal access to affordable, high-quality health care.
Planned Parenthood initially submitted an application for Plant Park at the University of Tampa, which is not available, but has since set its sights on either Centennial Park or Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park. That wasn't unusual. Several groups submitted applications for different parks on the same day in the apparent hope that they could get a second choice if the first did not come through.
Although Monday was the deadline for groups that want to be eligible for Friday's lottery, Tampa officials say they will continue to accept applications first-come, first-served as long as they have open slots at a dozen different parks both inside and outside downtown. "I anticipate that the process will continue on through the summer," City Attorney James Shimberg Jr. said.
Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.
The Freewheelin health and wellness program at the Republican National Convention will not have a bike-sharing component. Articles published this week about events planned during the convention mischaracterized the program.