Protesters go toe-to-toe with delegates as RNC lets out
TAMPA - They didn't want to be confined to what they called "Freedom Cage," the fenced-in area near the Forum designated as a protest zone by police. They wanted to be close enough to see delegates, to talk to them, to yell at them as they left the event that officially crowned Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential candidate. So they brokered a deal with police to march to Ashley Drive and Whiting Street, where many of those who attended the convention would be leaving late Thursday. As they waited, surrounded by a sea of police officers on foot, on bicycles and on horses, some protesters sat on the street. Others played music and danced.There was a giant panda bear and a slew of Guardian Angels. There was even a man with a boot on his head and a bullhorn in his hand. Oh, and yes, a full moon. When delegates started trickling out, protesters started chanting, "The delegates are coming, the delegates are coming." Then they taunted them with chants of "Shame, shame, shame." William Estrella, of the Occupy Wall Street movement, pulled out his wallet and offered to give some of them cash. "How much is your vote?" he asked. "I'll pay for it." While some of the protesters shook their firsts at the conventioneers and others held up their middle finger, many of those walking down Ashley Drive shrugged off the treatment. "You're on the wrong side of history, and you're laughing about it," said Brendan Hunt of Queens. "The whole world is watching." Police on bicycles and on foot served as a barrier between the protesters and those attending the convention. But as the swarm moved north on Ashley, a couple of delegates got into a shouting match with the protesters. "Go get a job. I could buy you out," said an obviously agitated Republican from New York as protesters tried to discuss their views with him. "We run this country. We own you." Mariah McKinney, a 21-year-old from New York, said she was pushed by someone leaving the convention. She filled out a police report early today at Romneyville.
The five-day exhibition at the Florida State Fairgrounds expects to draw more than seniors and retirees.