RNC delegates at forum, protesters at Romneyville

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

On one side of downtown Tampa Aug. 28, delegates were arriving to the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum to nominate Mitt Romney for president.

On the other side of downtown, in the shadow of an I-275 overpass, protesters readied to march from Camp Romneyville, a small tent city with a name reminiscent of Hooverville.

At the forum, delegates were eager for business – the anthem, the pledge, the roll call, the nomination, the adoption of the party platform, the speeches that would culminate with the keynote by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

At the camp, protesters were eager to march, again – after a disappointing showing for the first march on Aug. 27 due to Tropical Storm Isaac concerns.

“We are going to be heard,” said Patches Slauson of Dallas mid-afternoon Aug. 28. He had arrived to Tampa from Texas with eight other people in an old wood-paneled station wagon. They were camping in the back of the wagon and fueled on a diet of coffee and granola.

At the forum, a detailed schedule provided an almost minute-by-minute plan for the first full program of the convention and the themes for each day – “We Built It” on Aug. 28, “We Can Change It” on Aug. 29 and “We Believe in America” on Aug. 30.

At the camp, plans were more relaxed. The march was to begin around 5 p.m. and, after that, protesters were making plans to head out to Tampa hotspots to be heard and be seen. Ybor City, hub of Tampa nightlife for its youngest adults, should be the site of many roving demonstrations.

At the forum, speeches for the afternoon speakers were released an hour in advance, with stamps of “embargoed until delivery.”

At rag-tag Romneyville, speeches seemed entirely ad-libbed and the speakers were not working off a single platform. There were a lot of supporters for Ron Paul. There were some supporters of Barack Obama. There were disgruntled Democrats and angry independents, loud Libertarians and, in WiG’s survey, no registered Republicans.

“We are here because we want peace, and it hasn’t been fully delivered,” said Amelie Robertson of Orlando, Fla. “We are here because we want health care for all, and it hasn’t been delivered. We are here because we want jobs created and civil liberties recognized.”

“And Jesus,” added friend Joe Reich, “we want to get away from the right-wing politics of the Republican Party. I mean, I thought we could have an argument about the future, but, with the GOP platform on abortion, we’re refighting battles of the past now.”