TAMPA — So far, the award for “Best explanation of why there are so few protesters here” goes to Walt Handelsman, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist and my roommate for the next two weeks on the road (he also deserves a prize for that): “Maybe the economy is so bad they can’t afford cardboard and magic markers.”
One of the easiest options for a journalist at an event like the Republican National Convention is supposed to be the protesters. Ideally, if you can’t think of a story idea or get tired of explaining the niceties of Medicare funding for the readers, you can just amble out on to the street. You usually look for someone dressed like Martin Van Buren, perk up your ears for a group chanting “Hey ho, hey ho, wealthy people got to go” or seek out a conspiracy theorist eager to explain the connection between Spiro T. Agnew, the Elders of Zion and the high price of Spam. A couple of questions, a quick picture, and you’ve got a story in the bag.
Not this time, baby. Not in Tampa.
Oh, they expected protesters. They planned for rabble-rousers. They even employed, according to media reports, 4,000 security people to deal with chanting, sign-waving mobs, as well as other concerns. But the precautions were mostly for naught. Most of the angry people here are delegates who must endure four-hour rides on shuttle buses.
It’s not that there’s been no protest at all. There have been a few Ron Paul folks, of course, but they’re pretty law-abiding folks in general. They think there are too many laws, don’t get me wrong, but they still tend to follow them. And I saw two people with signs that said “Show 44 the door,” 44 being President Barack Obama, our 44th, and the door being the White House exit.
The biggest rally thus far was Wednesday night, while Paul Ryan spoke. According to USA Today, a group of less than 100 “occupy”-style protesters took the opportunity to make their point then, while everyone connected with the convention was inside, staring at Paul Ryan. Which was, in a way, commendably polite and refreshingly non-annoying, although perhaps not a brilliant way to get said point (what was occupy’s point, again?) across.
As of Thursday morning, only three protesters had been arrested, and the threat of revolution was so far off the police chief had canceled several press conferences planned to discuss protests.
City officials say the possibility of Hurricane Isaac hitting and the cancellation of Monday’s proceedings likely hurt turnout. Walt’s got his "too poor for posters” theory.
But I think it may have gone differently. I suspect convention organizers, in a desire to show off the inclusiveness of their fair region, may have agreed to provide shuttle buses for anyone wishing to march and chant.
If that’s the case, they should be here any minute.
Pictured above: A few demonstrators sit on a Domino's Pizza parking lot in protest in Tampa, Fla. The three dozen chanting anti-GOP protesters hit a lull of silence as they marched through a neighborhood of low-income housing in west Tampa. "What are you guys doing taking a nap?" shouted one protester to his cohorts. Another shouted, "You guys are reeeeaaal quiet, now!" The protests against the Republican convention in Tampa have been unexpectedly muted this week, something even the protesters acknowledge. (Aug. 30, 2012)