TAMPA — "Stand up! Fight back!" chanted more than 100 union protesters as they marched down a permitted parade route Wednesday evening. But like all permitted and unofficial marches at the Republican National Convention so far, there was little threat of actual violence.
The AFL-CIO marched, chanted - and satirically acted out skits showing their beliefs that the Romney campaign and GOP is "squeezing and removing" the middle and working class, cutting pay and limiting opportunities in favor of the "1 percent."
"We need to retain and expand workers rights and benefits," said Sarasota resident Beverly St Hilaire. "I feel Romney is protecting the 1 percent, they're destroying the middle class. They're just getting wealthier and not supporting the working class people. Working class people are the ones that are hurting."
By 6:40 p.m., the group, largely consisting of union workers including the Postal Service, steelworkers union and teachers, hadn't crossed paths with the day's other marchers.
Earlier, another group of protesters staged an anti-police march to protest the heavy police presence that has been aimed at every protest event held so far during this week's Republican National Convention.
"I sag my pants, I rock my hoodie," protesters chanted in unison. "TPD keep your hands off me!"
The Tampa Police Department did just that, allowing the march to continue — but khaki-clad bicycle officers also kept a close eye on the marchers from afar and kept pace with them.
The protesters said they were marching against the "overbearing" and "ridiculously-sized" police presence.
They emerged from the "Romneyville" camp just after 4:30 p.m. and headed west on Main Street — away from downtown. They marched on the street into the residential neighborhoods of West Tampa, blocking traffic as they passed by Blake High School.
"Police everywhere! Justice nowhere!" they chanted.
Meanwhile, a car stuck behind the march honked loudly. Finally the driver gave up, blasted rap music through the car stereo and drove around the protesters.
By 5:15 p.m., the marchers reached their destination: Voice of Freedom Park at 2101 W Main St.
But protesters said they eventually intend to march on the Argosy University office at 1403 N Howard Ave. to protest "scam schools." It's a for-profit college and 41 percent of the company is owned by the banking firm Goldman Sachs.
Then the protesters said they'll head back downtown to stage an anti-Mitt Romney march.