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Spirited, varied crowd watches Obama inauguration at Tampa Theatre

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 10:11 AM

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TAMPA -

A spirited crowd of well over 100 turned out to watch the presidential inauguration inside the historic Tampa Theatre on Monday, and the demographics couldn't have been more wide-ranging.

In the back row, cheering at every turn, standing during the oath of office and encouraging others to do the same was Jerome Greene, a 68-year-old man who has been homeless since moving to Tampa in 1996.

"I didn't have anywhere else to watch this," he said.

A few rows down, applauding and cheering was Alex Sink, who ran for governor two years ago and is the state's former chief financial officer.

"I was in Washington just yesterday," she said. She had attended the Obama inauguration four years ago when it was bitter cold in the nation's capital. "This is better than sitting at home watching it by myself. Plus, it's got that Florida flavor."

The crowd was overwhelmingly – if not totally – comprised of Obama supporters. They wore Obama T-shirts and shirts declaring themselves as part of the 99 percent; moms cradled babies, trying to keep them quiet. Toddlers wobbled up and down the aisles.

They cheered and applauded at every turn - during musical performances and pauses in the speech, at the swearing in of Vice President Joe Biden and Obama. Everyone chuckled when the camera caught the president's youngest daughter, Sasha, yawning during his speech.

It was like being there without the wind-chill factor or having to fight the crowd of a half-million people.

The historic theater had opened its doors for the free screening of the presidential inauguration four years ago, and 1,000 people showed up. Far fewer were there Monday, but the enthusiasm was no less.

Kim O'Connor of Tallahassee got there early. The 40-year-old Green Party member had been to Tampa Theatre before and thought watching the inauguration there would be perfect.

"I'm very excited about this," she said as she walked toward the front door. "I have no way to watch it without going somewhere and I like the Tampa Theatre. I love the inauguration."

That the inauguration of the nation's first black president falls on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day made the experience that much better for many of those in attendance.

"There are tears in my eyes," she said. "This makes me believe that Martin Luther King did not die in vain."

Local activist Neil Cosentino, 75, was hoping to hear the president come out swinging at his opponents in his speech, but then said there's not much difference between Democrats and Republicans in Washington.

"They are like fake sword fighters or professional wrestlers," he said. "When the day is over, they split the gate."

Tampa resident Madeline Orio, 29, campaigned for the president. She showed up for the screening just after the doors opened Monday morning.

She came because she wanted to share the emotion by watching the inauguration with other Obama supporters.

"Plus," she said, "it's too cold in D.C."


kmorelli@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7760

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