Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg protesters march in the shadow of RNC welcome party — but don't stay long

ST. PETERSBURG — As hundreds of protesters approached the high barbed wire fence, their drums beat louder and their chants grew more profane. The wind picked up. The skies darkened.

On the other side of the fence, between the protesters and the Republican National Convention kickoff party inside Tropicana Field, police wearing body armor sat atop horses wearing body armor. Dozens of other officers stood by or leaned on bicycles.

The protesters held up signs of dissent and raised middle fingers. They yelled rhymes about the 99 percent and corrupt government and, once or twice, impending anarchy.

Then, about a half-hour later, they were gone.

Organizers of Sunday's march on the Trop had promised it would be a peaceful protest, and it was exactly that.

"I think that people just really want to be heard," said Jennifer Kenny, 56, of Brevard County, an organizer for the Alliance for Retired Americans who wanted nothing more than to participate in a safe protest.

Authorities wanted, and got, the same thing.

"They were orderly, they were lawful," said St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon.

The protest group gathered at Mirror Lake. There were grandmas and hipsters. Preschoolers and union presidents. A guy in a kilt with a red T-shirt that read "Thank God I'm an atheist."

By 5:30 p.m., the crowd had swelled to about 500. There were more than three times that many law enforcement officers — 1,800 in all — involved in securing the Trop for the up to 15,000 people who attended.

Organizations represented included Food Not Bombs,, a City of St. Petersburg union and at least one protester from Occupy Wall Street.

Many people said they opposed the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan GOP ticket. Others said they wanted to ensure a social safety net would still exist for their children.

About a dozen men and women dressed in all black, their faces covered by bandanas, lounged by Mirror Lake. They wouldn't reveal who they were but said they weren't affiliated with any other groups. In passing, they used the term "black bloc" several times.

Black Bloc technically refers to a tactic in which protestors conceal their identities behind dark clothing so they appear as one unit and become harder to break up. Those who use the expression are often accused of violence.

The atmosphere Sunday, however, was anything but.

Rev. Manuel Sykes, president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, addressed the crowd.

"We need to understand: We are not just fighting for the 2012 election," he said. "We are fighting for the future of America."

Protesters carried a giant Mitt Romney puppet, wrapped in rain-protecting plastic.

The march produced a constant stream of peculiar juxtapositions. A group carrying a black coffin, which represented the death of democracy, walked alongside three gray-haired women on scooters.

On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, about a dozen men and women dressed in black yelled a chant, rife with four-letter words, about fascism. A few feet away, 5-year-old Josh Rinehart held up a sign: "Whose food stamps would Jesus cut?" His mother, Shelba Waldron, wasn't too concerned about things getting out of hand.

"There's so much security around, I just can't imagine that anything could happen," she said.

She was right. Police didn't arrest anyone.

By 6:45 p.m., as many of the party's guests were arriving, the protest zone was empty. A pair of small signs, one about taxes and the other about the middle class, was still tied to the fence.

In the street, a rising wind and a skipping can of Olde English malt liquor were all that remained.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at or (727) 893-8643. Times staff writer Andrew Meacham contributed to this report.

St. Petersburg protesters march in the shadow of RNC welcome party — but don't stay long 08/26/12 [Last modified: Sunday, August 26, 2012 10:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  2. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and similar events, saying they are inappropriate could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  3. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  4. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)
  5. Photo gallery: Nation pays respects to America's war dead on Memorial Day

    Human Interest

    At Memorial Day ceremonies in Tampa Bay area and around the country, Americans paid tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

    Eight-year-old Piper St. Jean, of Tampa, uses a brush to clean the grave of her grandfather, Henry St. Jean, who served with the United States Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens on Monday moments after the conclusion of their 31st annual Memorial Day Service on Monday (5/23/17) in Palm Harbor. The event featured guest speakers, live choral performances by the Palm Harbor United Methodist Church choir and live music by Bones South, an area trombone ensemble with rhythm section. On Saturday local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops placed flags on veterans???‚??„? graves prior to the event. This is an annual tradition of Curlew Hills' Memorial Day services and helps the Scout troops achieve merit badges. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.