Welcome! This is a follow-up on blog post #20 - the announcement by Citizens United Productions of a Film Event during the RNC Convention in Tampa. I cannot say enough good things about my experience!
As I share some of the betters moments of my time spent in Tampa this week, I hope to convey the importance of staying positive and optimistic in the midst of bad news, frustrations and setbacks. This election cycle has been exceptionally disappointing, but there are always good people with a great message who are doing the right thing, working behind the scenes and on-camera to keep our focus on what is important this year. My message in the next few blog posts is summed up in five words: It's time to acknowledge them! We must also follow their lead and support them wherever we can!
The information will be divided into three blog posts: the Introduction, Main Event, and Conclusion.
Saturday, August 25th, 2012. Hurricane Isaac threatens the Gulf Coast and Tampa Bay area. Governor Rick Scott and RNC Chair Reince Priebus annouce at 7 p.m. that the convention events scheduled for Monday would be postponed until Tuesday.
paperwork was completed rather quickly, and I began my search for Liberty Plaza where the film event was to take place. I managed to find the street where the theatre was on, Morgan, and waited at the traffic light; however, I noticed a crowd across the intersection. I realized it was the OWS protesters about to start their march, and with seconds they began to surround my car. I was afraid,
and did not know what to do, but I pulled out my camera and nervously got some pictures in. As I sat in my car hoping no one would throw rocks at my car or break my windows, I overheard one of them tell me, "Thank you for being so patient!" Lovely.
Needless to say, I decided to abandon the idea of visiting the tent by car. The entire area was blocked off for at least a mile in each direction anyway, and there was no way to get anywhere near the tent by car. I chose to park at a garage not too far away, across Channelside mall, to see how else I could spend the day. There was not much to do.
Channelside is the mall where Sarah Palin had leased space to be part of the Convention in Tampa. It was mostly empty, except for a couple of private parties going on (for the press). I found a chocolatier that had wi-fi, bought an apple (was on a budget) and some peanut butter, and waited for the rain to subside. While I waited, I thought how disappointing it had been that she was not given a formal invitation to speak at the convention. The mall felt haunted without her. I am sure business would have boomed had she been there! Even with the bad weather.
This is what I did with the hat they gave me.
The big white tent is where Liberty Plaza was located. It is just a few blocks away from Channelside as you can see from the picture above. The parking garage is right in front of the two tall buildings on the left. Because of the road blocks and fenced areas, and getting lost because police, who were pretty much the only ones on the street that Monday, were from out-of-town did not know the area. There was one couple who was doing as I was, checking out the area before the big day. They took a taxi after giving up on walking to the theater, as they couldn't find it either. I didn't ask to join them and probably regretted it later, but I'm not one to give up easily on a task I set out to do. I continued my march.
After five hours, a huge blister on the ball of my foot (I had been walking in boots, not sneakers), an empty stomach, and sweaty, damp cothes from the mugginess, I got to my destination at Liberty Plaza.
It was around 7:30 p.m. It started getting dark and I was running out of time. I walked around the tent to leave the area, turned right instead of left because the fencing didn't seem to lead anywhere in either direction, but the one on the left looked more dangerous as there was no sidewalk around it, and I was afraid I end up making the wrong turn on a deserted corner of town. It turns out there was no openings on the fence that enclosed the area to my right. I was stuck inside an empty lot and really had nowhere to go. After a quarter mile or so, a good officer noticed me and offered help. He gave me a ride on his golf car back to the street I had avoided, but he couldn't take me further. I still had to walk down that one, then turn right onto the long avenue that lead back to Channelside.
I got to the garage about an another hour later, but was happy to head back to the hotel which was situated 45 miles south of that. by almost 10 p.m. I was having dinner. (For the sake of not scaring anyone, I will not show the picture I took at the end of that day, even though I should..)
These are the pictures I took during my walking tour:
Police on Bikes
More police on bikes
Police on street corners
Abbey Road Police
Police in Sheriff's cars
Police in electric cars
Police directing traffic
And Police in my rear view window (twice)
These are more pictures I took on days four and five:
Barricaded pathways for pedestrians
P.C. green cars to sweat even more (they move by pedaling)
Special lanes for RNC, all others keep far left
More blocked off roads for pedestrians
Empty cafes and eateries
Merchants waiting for customers
Appropriate symbol for how dead downtown was
“Occupy Tampa" was innocuous compared to the New York protests we saw on television, and for that, credit has to be given to Tampa for beefing up security the way they did. It must have deterred more protesters from attending, which is a good thing, but it felt wrong on so many levels. First, the fact that so much fuss had to be made over troublemakers. Second, by obscene expense that it all seemed to incur at a time when people are hurting and out of work. Third, by the fact that you never hear about right-wing Tea Party activists ruin other people's plans for peaceful political gatherings. Threats by the Black Panthers and union thugs did scare off a lot of people, and did force a city to turn it into what seemed like a war zone, only there was no war. It just did not seem fair.
I am not complaining because I had the time of my life. And the RNC/GOP must be breathing a sigh of relief that it is over, but that the war that they were fighting was also with the Tea Party. Delegates were voted off the convention floor. The GOP stole the Tea Party message to appeal to voters, but they kept the leaders of the movement from speaking there to represent them. The underlying (and overwhelming) feeling of not being welcomed was obvious. One Ron Paul supporter I met on Monday shared her grief. There is so much bitterness in the movement, as there should have been. The deliberate attempt by the GOP to marginilize them, and us, is so great, that no matter how what happens, they will never erase or quell the outrage caused by their dismissive and unfortunate actions this entire year. Now is not the time to settle scores or tell that story, but it cannot be forgotten!
The RNC production was elaborate and "picture perfect"; but the expensive balloons, the “glossiness” and the fanfare could not cover up the dirty truth beneath it. Even if we win in November, I will not feel part of the "we". The victory will seem kind of hollow, at least to me. The mood was a bit "off"
from the mood felt in the grassroot trenches. I do not know what was reported, but I can say the pictures I saw hide the sentiments that so many I know share every day. When will someone notice?
Had it not been for Citizens United Theater, where admission was free, famous people were easily accessed, and the catering was generous (wine included), I would not have felt like an insider. The five films that were presented helped me to keep focused and positive on what matters, and with people who felt the same as I did but had no airs. I had fun spiting GOP elitism in my quiet, activist way. I shared my disappointment about the GOP every chance I got. That in and of itself was worth all the trouble.
This sunny cypress on Day 4 was a sign of better things to come...