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Trump events expected to draw all kinds of crowds Tuesday

Students gathered in the courtyard of Tampa Bay Technical High School this spring during a student-led walk out to protest gun violence. Some of these students will hold a rally on Tuesday ahead of President Trump's visit to the school. [Facebook]
Students gathered in the courtyard of Tampa Bay Technical High School this spring during a student-led walk out to protest gun violence. Some of these students will hold a rally on Tuesday ahead of President Trump's visit to the school. [Facebook]
Published Jul. 30, 2018

TAMPA — Current and former students at Tampa Bay Technical High School are drawing a distinction between what's expected to be a largely anti-President Donald Trump protest at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Tuesday and the demonstration they are planning before his scheduled visit to the school.

Trump will attend a roundtable talk at Tampa Bay Tech on career and technical education before holding a campaign rally at the Fairgrounds.

"This is not an anti-Trump protest, but an event where people can gather to speak up about what they believe deserves change," said Parisa Akbarpour, 18, an organizer of the event and a Sickles High School graduate.

The demonstration is being organized by Akbarpour and Tampa Bay Tech student Mia Eastman under the name "Move Together" and is supported by NextGen Florida, a progressive activist group that aims to mobilize young voters. The demonstration is scheduled from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., before Trump's scheduled arrival, on the school campus at 6410 Orient Road.

Where on campus the demonstrators will gather was unclear Monday morning. The demonstration is open to the public, organizers said. Akbarpour said they will release more information late Monday afternoon.

Organizers do not plan to apply for a permit and they will demonstrate on public land.

Organizers have also suggested parking at the All Peoples Community Center, about a mile from the school, on E Sligh Avenue, as well as nearby gas stations and food marts.

The roundtable talk with the president, which is not open to the public, is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.

"We want to highlight the growing importance of having President Trump's support of young people and the students that embody this school," said organizer Eastman, 17, a senior at Tampa Bay Tech. "We're hoping that by him coming to the school, he's willing to engage in a healthy discussion about improving the lives of young people and the communities we stand for."

Akbarpour said the demonstration is a broad call for young people and community members to talk about issues they feel are important. Those include gun violence, immigration policies, police brutality and environmental issues.

"The rally is not meant to give out any certain stance on an issue, but bring people together who have concerns about a bunch of issues," Akbarpour said. "It's a respectful place where people can go to let their voices be heard. Everyone will be welcome."

Several environmental groups and community leaders have been invited, Akbarpour said.

Tampa Bay Tech is a top Florida career and technical educational school, Hillsborough schools officials said. Students there recorded the district's highest high school graduation rate last year at 97.6 percent.

Some students put the skills they learned in school to the test for the Trump demonstration: Many of the rally posters posted on the event's Facebook page were designed by commercial art students.

One or more Hillsborough County School Board members are scheduled to attend the roundtable talk, according to Tanya Arja, a spokeswoman with the district. But it was still unclear who else will be allowed to attend.

Jeff Eakins, Hillsborough County schools superintendent told the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday that he hoped invitations would be extended to educators, business leaders and students at Tampa Bay Tech. Officials expected to hear from the White House soon.

If Eastman, the Tampa Bay Tech student and organizer, is able to attend the roundtable discussion, she said she would have a list grievances.

"I'd just want him to be open to a healthy dialogue with the youth and the issues we all care about," Eastman said.

The rally at the fairgrounds, near the junction of U.S. 301 and Interstate 4 just two miles south of the high school, was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Doors of the Expo Hall open at 4 p.m.

The sale of Trump merchandise outside the event is strictly prohibited, according to Florida State Fair officials. Vendor space will only be made available inside Expo Hall for vendors who register at the rally website.

Demonstrators will also be stationed across a grassy parking lot in what state fair officials call a First Amendment Activities Zone, said Christine Hanna, founder of progressive activist group Indivisible Action Tampa Bay.

The group is a branch of the National Indivisible organization, and members from other like-minded groups are expected to show up, Hanna said.

A protest sign making party, hosted by NextGen, will take place at 6 p.m. Monday on 211 N Lois Ave.

Maya Humes, media manager for NextGen Florida, said the students reached out to the organization for help last week.

NextGen Florida, which will also cohost the rally at the Fairgrounds, has helped the students promote the demonstration as well as with logistics such as where protesters should park. NextGen organizers will be on hand to register voters for the Nov. 6 general election.

"These students are really fired up and taking charge," Humes said.

Some students at Tampa Bay Tech have marched before to make their voices heard about social issues.

Along with thousands of high school students across the Tampa Bay area, they walked out of class in support of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, gathering in hallways and campus plaza for 17 minutes of silence — one for each person killed in the February shootings at the Broward County school.

Eastman posted photos of the earlier demonstration on the event page.

One photo shows her holding a megaphone, sitting on the shoulders of another student addressing a large crowd in the school's courtyard.

"Students, never forget the power you hold," Eastman wrote. "Adults, we need the support in and out of voting booths."

Contact Tim Fanning at Follow at @TimothyJFanning.