Protesters rally, then sing against Romney

TAMPA — In a light drizzle, protesters gathered Thursday night to send their message to Mitt Romney: that he's no friend of the middle class.

The group of more than 150, a mash-up of protesters from Code Pink and the Occupy movement, stopped at Lykes Gaslight Square Park in downtown Tampa to hold a rally featuring a large likeness of Romney.

Police on bikes stayed off to the side, but as bad weather approached tried to warn the group over a megaphone.

One officer even showed protesters the weather radar on his smartphone. "I'm telling you, it's coming this way," the officer said.

Bay News 9's Klystron 9 radar showed two storm cells over Tampa at the time.

The protesters didn't disband but instead started marching toward the security perimeter outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where Romney was to appear onstage Thursday night.

But first, the march paused outside a hotel. "The Hyatt Regency is the home of the Wisconsin delegation!" one shouted before the group moved on.

The group stalled at the intersection of Jackson and Morgan streets to decide where to head next. There, they started a chant based on the damp weather:

"Whose storm? Our storm."

The police then let them around barricades on Morgan Street, and the protesters headed to the designated protest zone outside the Times Forum.

There, in the middle of the street, between 50 and 75 stopped and dropped into a puddle of bodies sitting on the asphalt surrounded by other protesters, police and reporters.

Around them, demonstrators danced and chanted.

A man donned red horns to represent the devil, and a semi-circle sprawled on the ground around him clapped in unison as he sang.

After the impromptu play ended, protesters took to their feet again and the crowd began to swell near the Times Forum.

Around 300 marchers began to sing — "We're not going to take it any more" — as some beat on drums.

Police on horses and bicycles watched, and some held batons. Police Chief Jane Castor arrived.

"We always give them an avenue out," Castor said, reiterating that even during tense moments earlier in the day police had no intent to make arrests.

The marchers then congregated at Ashley and Whiting streets, and some sat down there, in hopes of being able to encounter delegates as the convention let out. But that security checkpoint was blocks from the convention at the Times Forum.

Still, a convention attendee, Robert Lawrence of New York, inadvertently wandered into the protesters. They saw him, surrounded him and began screaming.

"We run this country," he said back. "You just want a welfare check."

Seconds later, Mariah McKinney shoved a bottle 2 inches from Lawrence's face and yelled at him. He swatted her hand away and she, in response, threw her arms up: "assault, assault, assault."

The 21-year-old later told police she wanted to file a report against him.

But then a after a lengthy rally in that area, the protesters marched after midnight back to the Romneyville encampment.

Along the way back to their temporary home, some discussed taking their causes to the Democratic National Convention, which opens next week in Charlotte, N.C.

Protesters rally, then sing against Romney 08/30/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 31, 2012 1:45am]

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