Convention countdown
Activists prep for political parties’ parties

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Then-nominee Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right, his wife Michelle, second right, vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and wife, Jill, pose after Obama’s speech during the Democratic National Convention at Invesco Field in Denver on Aug. 28, 2008. –Photo: AP/LM Otero

The coming month brings two national events promising pageantry, drama, glamour, humor and folksy homages.

These aren’t awards shows – the celebri- ties, for the most part, will be political stars, and the ultimate prizes are party nomina- tions for the presidency.

The Republican National Convention takes place Aug. 27-30 in Tampa, Fla. The Democratic National Convention takes place Sept. 4-6 in Charlotte, N.C.

Both conventions are crucial to rallying the party bases going into the final months of a close contest for the White House. With 270 electoral votes needed to win, Obama has 217 solid votes and Romney has 206. Battleground states include Wisconsin,Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa, Florida and Colorado.

In both Tampa and Charlotte, host committees are busy making sure the venues are ready – outfitted and secured for an estimated 50,000 delegates, politicians, staff, press and activists. But host police departments are also preparing for the thousands more who are planning to rally, parade and protest as part of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements, while party committees are firming up credentials, caucus meetings, draft platforms and speakers.

In Tampa

Official Republican National Convention plans include a kick-off party at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, the nomination speech and the nominee’s acceptance speech. But a lot will take place outside the convention hall as well – parties, fundraisers, caucus meetings, platform talks and protests.

Several LGBT groups are finalizing plans, including GOProud, which earlier in the summer endorsed nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney, and Log Cabin Republicans, which, if it makes an endorsement for the White House, will do so after the convention.

R. Clarke Cooper, the executive director of the 30-year- old LCR, said because the nominee officially is decided at the convention, ancillary groups traditionally wait to make endorsements. LCR’s schedule for the convention week includes:

  • An Aug. 26 reception hosted by Florida chapters.
  • A celebration of out Republicans in partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund on Aug. 27.
  • A brunch celebrating the newly formed Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry on Aug. 29.

A tribute to congressional allies on Aug. 30.

Cooper, who worked for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, attended the 2000 convention that nominated George W. Bush. The acceptance speech, he said, “was everything any political junkie would expect.” He remembered that convention as a display of party pride, state pride and a hub of “hyped-up retail politics.”

Now, for 2012, Cooper is returning to his home state. “It is a point of pride,” Cooper said of the homecoming. The week before the convention, LCR representatives were in Tampa to weigh in on drafting a party platform. Because delegates aren’t likely to adopt a platform that calls for marriage equality, Cooper wanted to focus on removing or modifying language. An LCR point, he said, would be, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

As of press time, however, it seemed the draft platform would call for an anti-gay constitutional amendment on marriage and a defense of DOMA.

LGBT advocates also will be involved with actions outside the GOP convention, as part of the Occupy the RNC campaign.

“Despite the oppressive rules intended to keep us away, we are going to be there and we are going to be heard on poverty, minimum wage, war, peace, the environment and human rights,” said Sarasota activist Paul Whitacre.

A handbill for Occupy the RNC circulating in the area announced, “We will Confront Mr. 1% and the horrible cauldron of hate at the RNC with Nonviolent Direct Action and community building!”

Protest events include a march and “roving radical dance party” on Aug. 27 and a series of street protests and “decentralized direct- action demonstrations “lasting all night, all day” from Aug. 27-30. Aug. 30 also includes a March on the Democrats. A Web announcement said, “With the ending of the RNC, we set our sights on the Democrats. After all, both parties are f---ing over the country by pandering to corporate interests instead of the people they claim to represent. So follow us as we march in the streets against the Democrats and prepare our caravan to Charlotte, home of the DNC.”

“One of the central goals of organizing around both conventions is to bring light to the lack of representation this system offers and demand alternatives to build our democratic voice,” said Occupy activist/organizer Matthew Hickson.

In Charlotte

Gay activist Amelia Rivera of Charlotte will be among the protesters at the DNC. “For me, it is all about social justice. So, great if the party is good on gay issues, but it’s not great that it doles out support for civil rights and human rights like ‘here’s your treat, gays’ and ‘here’s your treat, Latinos.’ There is right and there is wrong. Period.”

Gay rights activist Teresa Mitcham of Charlotte said she will attend both Occupy actions and a couple of public events at the convention.

“I’m a Democrat and happy to have the convention here,” she said. “I think it will be inspirational. And a good way for us to be heard.”

The official convention lineup includes speeches by first lady Michelle Obama, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and U.S. Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin. Former President Bill Clinton will deliver the nominating speech on Sept. 5 and Vice President Joe Biden and Barack Obama will make their acceptance speeches on Sept. 6 at the Bank of America stadium.

Jerame Davis of the National Stonewall Democrats said a milestone will be reached on Sept. 6, with the two incumbent nominees for the highest offices in the nation being on the record for marriage equality.

“The big news will be the historic nature of a major national political party (affirming) its support for marriage

equality and (re-nominating) an incumbent president who supports our freedom to marry,” he said. “While not the panacea of equality, it is certainly a milestone in the LGBT movement.”

Stonewall has plans for several events during the convention, including welcoming the LGBT delegates – the number is expected to exceed 400 and set a record.

“Total LGBT participation – with groups like Stonewall, HRC, and the Victory Fund in addition to DNC staff, LGBT media, and others – is likely to exceed 500,” Davis said.

The Coalition to March on Wall Street South is also organizing the Occupy campaign in Charlotte for Sept. 1-6. The largest events will be a march on Sept. 2 and a student-led liberation festival on Sept. 1.

“Our coalition is expecting thousands of people to turn out over Labor Day weekend (in Charlotte) and throughout the week,” Hickson said.

Preparations ahead of the actions involve finding shelter for demonstrators and staging areas for protests.

“We are currently in the process of finding campgrounds, hotels, churches and private venues that would be willing to house folks during the DNC,” Hickson said. “Outside of sleeping arrangements, we will be facilitating a convergence space where folks will be able to meet up and have meetings, make signs, share meals, et cetera.”

“There are many reasons that folks will come to the March on Wall Street South, but we’re united in our calls for jobs, justice for our communities, and money for human needs, not more wars and jails,” said organizer Donna Dewitt. “Both corporate parties are working on behalf of the banks, not the people, and in order to create the world we deserve, we have to build an independent people’s power movement from below.”

Southern parties: Guide to the political conventions

Republican convention

When: Aug. 27-30

Where: Tampa, Fla.

Who: There are 2,286 Republican delegates; 2,125 alternates; 15,000 party leaders and credentialed media members. Wisconsin has 42 delegates.

What: The adoption of the party platform and the nomination of the party candidate for president. Presumptive nominee Mitt Romney is expected to give his speech in prime time on Aug. 30.

On the Web: www.gopconvention2012.com

Democratic convention

When: Sept. 4-6

Where: Charlotte, N.C.

Who: There are 5,556 voting delegates; 15,000 party leaders and credentialed media members. Wisconsin has 111 delegates, including 11 unpledged.

What: The adoption of the party platform and the re-nomination of Barack Obama, who is scheduled to give his acceptance speech on Sept. 6.

On the Web: www.demconvention.com