Organizers say 5,000-person march set for Republican National Convention's first day

Published Aug. 23, 2012

TAMPA — An alliance of more than 60 labor, peace, student, immigrant rights, gay and lesbian and other groups says it's ready for a 5,000-person march on the first day of the Republican National Convention.

"There will be nothing that will stop us from marching in the streets to demand good jobs, health care, affordable education, equality and peace and to oppose the party of legitimate rape," said Corey Uhl of the local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society.

The Coalition to March on the RNC plans to meet at 10 a.m. Monday at Perry Harvey Park. It is expected to hear from more than 40 speakers before marching around noon south toward the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Protesters are expected to come on buses from as far away as New York, Minnesota, Illinois and the state of Washington, organizers say. The crowd could include more than 700 college students. A member of Occupy Wall Street is expected to arrive with three busloads of demonstrators.

Organizers say the march will be peaceful and contend that any trouble is likely to be started by police.

Asked whether the march will try to prevent anyone from, for example, breaking windows or throwing rocks, march leader Jared Hamil said, "If they break the law, well, it's the law. Whatever the law says."

But Hamil declined to criticize groups that might not follow organizers' plans for a peaceful march with a permit from the city.

"I'm not here to say that anything is a problem," he said. That's because the coalition has adopted a brief set of guidelines, "The Tampa Bay Principles," that emphasize respect "for the diversity of tactics" and a commitment to keeping criticisms of other activists internal to the movement.

"If people choose to do a different type of tactic, we ask that they separate (themselves) by time and space," Hamil said. "What we're doing on Aug. 27 is a permitted peaceful march, and whatever other people decide to do will be done in a different place at a different time."

Fences going up

Asked where the Secret Service's secure perimeter will go, RNC organizers and law enforcement have consistently said, "You'll know it when you see it."

We've seen it.

The 8-foot-tall panels of the perimeter are now going up along Brorein Street, which will be as far south as a pedestrian can get without RNC credentials.

The panels lock together, have a steel mesh designed to disperse liquids thrown on them and a wide, heavy base that would make them difficult to lift or tip over.

Other fences — mostly shorter and of a different design — are going up:

• Around the Tampa Bay Times Forum itself.

• Around the large protest area along Nebraska Avenue, just north of Brorein, as well as around a neighboring lot where news organizations will park trailers.

• Along parts of Florida Avenue and Tampa Street.

• Around Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and the nearby Rivergate Tower, popularly known as the Beer Can Building.

• Around the Fred B. Karl County Center, the state courthouse, Tampa City Hall and the Tampa Police Department.

The city has budgeted $290,000 from its $50 million federal security grant to pay for fences around government buildings, which police Chief Jane Castor says is money well-spent.

Disruptive groups often target iconic buildings like government offices, Castor said during a news conference Tuesday. Fencing them off lets authorities deploy officers who would be guarding buildings to other assignments.

"You don't have to feed, water or give breaks to a fence, so it saves us a lot of personnel," Castor said.

The County Center has relocated workers to satellite offices for the convention, and City Hall plans to shift people around as well.

Old City Hall will be closed the week of the RNC, with most of its 63 employees working from other places, and a small handful on vacation. At the taller Tampa Municipal Office Building next door, 83 percent of the staff normally based there will work from there. Several dozen will be relocated to other offices.

Ryan speaks on Day 3

Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who is Mitt Romney's running mate, will cap the Wednesday of the convention, organizers said.

The convention's theme for that day will be "We can change it." Other speakers include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; U.S. Sens. John McCain of Arizona, John Thune of South Dakota and Rob Portman of Ohio, governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Luis Fortuno of Puerto Rico; Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.