Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hundreds of protesters rally outside GOP debate at USF

TAMPA — Lining the streets of the University of South Florida before Monday's Republican presidential debate, the crowd thickened with hundreds, bull horns blaring, signs held high.

One read, "Ron Paul not for sale. End the Fed."

Steps away, "Keep the Fed. End Ron Paul."

One sign, "Throw 'em all out!"

Across the street, dozens, supporting the Dream Act.

Mayra Hidalgo, 20, stood among them, with a group called We Are Florida! She calls herself a Dreamer, an undocumented college student in support of reforms to help her pay for school and get hired after graduation. She wants to be an immigration lawyer.

She said she wants to see an end to anti-immigration rhetoric.

"Latinos are listening very closely to what is being said. We're holding candidates accountable," she said.

As they chanted, "Yes, we can," a group of anti-President Barack Obama, pro-Israel demonstrators called on Republican candidates to recognize Israel as Obama's "Achilles' heel."

"Florida made Obama president," said longtime activist Bob Kunst. "He's betrayed us ever since."

Across campus, a coalition of union leaders, student activists, anti-war demonstrators and members of the Occupy movement made its public debut with a march that drew hundreds of enthusiastic protesters, some with enlarged copies of dollar bills taped across their mouths.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know who's responsible for the majority of attacks on the people in this state and in this country," Fight Back Florida statewide organizer Tyler Crawford told the crowd during a rally before the march. "They're going to be right here on campus today. Now, are we going to take that?"

"No!" the crowd shouted, and the full-throated protest went from there.

"Bankers got bailed out and we got sold out," said the Rev. Charles McKenzie of the Rainbow Push Coalition. "We are the 99 percent, and we are saying to the Republicans here tonight, 'No more business as usual.' "

After a half-dozen more speeches — on jobs, affordable education, attacks on immigrants and foreign policy — the group marched to the site of the debate, where they stood chanting behind a line of barricades as the audience filed in for the event:

"They say cut back. / We say fight back."

"Show me what democracy looks like. / This is what democracy looks like."

"Hey, hey, what do you say? / No RNC in Tampa Bay."

"We are the 99 percent."

"And so are you," a young woman with a soft voice called to USF police officers on the other side of the barricades.

Organizers said union members, student demonstrators and others came from Orlando, Gainesville, St. Petersburg and Tampa for the march. The same group — calling itself the Coalition To March on the RNC — is organizing what it hopes will be a much bigger march for Aug. 27, the first day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. So far, it has pledges of support from protest groups from Florida to Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Utah.

One smaller group drew lots of attention — three women in wigs and glasses, calling themselves Women of Florida for Newt. Their tongue-in-cheek sign, a quote they attribute to the candidate: "Do as I say, not as I do."

Hundreds of protesters rally outside GOP debate at USF 01/23/12 [Last modified: Monday, January 23, 2012 10:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Conservatives come to Sessions' defense amid Trump attacks


    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and influential conservatives rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday as President Donald Trump kept up his public pelting of the nation's top law enforcement officer and left his future in doubt.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  2. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here

    The Heater


    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, they better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher they can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  3. Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz keep paying tech expert suspected of stealing House computers?


    The following is from the Miami Herald:

  4. GOP senators blink on a big chance to repeal 'Obamacare'


    WASHINGTON — After seven years of emphatic campaign promises, Senate Republicans demonstrated Wednesday they don't have the stomach to repeal "Obamacare" when it really counts, as the Senate voted 55-45 to reject legislation undoing major portions of Barack Obama's law without replacing it.

    U.S. Sen. Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) talks with reporters as he walks to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington, DC. [Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
  5. Rick Baker's debate answer revives painful St. Pete controversy


    ST. PETERSBURG — Former Mayor Bill Foster fired one of his top administrators, Goliath Davis III, six years ago for disobeying an order to attend the funeral of a slain police officer.

    St. Petersburg police officers stand by two caskets before the beginning of the 2011 funeral services for Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz at the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD   |  Times]