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Pint-size protesters tag along with family on March on RNC in Tampa

Cheri Honkala, Green Party candidate for vice president, talks with son Guillermo Santos at a rally Monday in Tampa. Parents said they wanted their kids to experience democracy in action.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Cheri Honkala, Green Party candidate for vice president, talks with son Guillermo Santos at a rally Monday in Tampa. Parents said they wanted their kids to experience democracy in action.

TAMPA — Gavin McGill knows where he stands in the presidential election. He wants four more years of Barack Obama.

He doesn't like the GOP's platform. And he sympathizes with the hundreds who marched in protest through downtown Tampa on Monday.

"The Republicans," he said. "They're no good."

Luckily for Mitt Romney, Gavin won't be old enough to vote for 13 more years.

The 5-year-old stood on the sidewalk with grandmother Alicia McGill, 66, as protesters marched by chanting, "Show me what democracy looks like." McGill wanted her grandson to experience the First Amendment firsthand. She wanted him to know it's okay to have opinions and to share them with the world. "This is our right," she said. "This is democracy. This is America."

McGill was one of several who brought pint-sized protesters to the March on the RNC, a demonstration that moved from Perry Harvey Park to barricades just outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, about a mile walk.

After Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he would take his young daughters to experience democracy in action at this week's Republican National Convention, it seemed about half a dozen local parents had similar ideas for the protest.

Were they worried about tropical storm conditions? Conflicts with police?

"I would be remiss as a parent if I didn't bring him to this," said Terry Griffin, who led his 5-year-old son, Nicholas Alexander, into the thick of bodies marching past lines of police.

"These are real people with real problems with our government," Griffin said. "He needs to see this. This is his future."

If you ask Nicholas about his future, he shrugs. He stutters over the president's name.

Nicholas isn't political. Not yet. But on Monday, he was developing a taste for protests.

"It's fun," he said, twisting the fabric of his Spider-Man T-shirt around his small hand. "I like the marching and the singing."

For Blake Spies, protesting is in her blood. The 3-year-old was not fazed by the dozens of protesters chanting nearby. She didn't cry when a bullhorn rang out chants of, "We are the 99 percent!" She didn't flinch as photographers clamored to take her photograph.

She gets it from her mom.

Melissa Spies, 29, was arrested during the 2000 RNC in Philadelphia when she was 17. Spies acknowledged that Blake might not understand the politics — "She's only 3, after all" — but she wants her daughter to hear the message. "You have to stand up for what you believe in this world," said Spies, pulling Blake in a little red wagon as the tot clutched a stuffed animal and stared wide-eyed at protesters. "We're starting her early."

Marissa Lang can be reached at mlang@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386 or on Twitter @Marissa_Jae.

Pint-size protesters tag along with family on March on RNC in Tampa 08/27/12 [Last modified: Monday, August 27, 2012 11:22pm]
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