The 2012 Republican National Convention (RNC) will be held at the end of August in Tampa, Florida. The attendant media exposure will attract groups from around the country who wish to protest and get their message out to the masses. Several coalitions have formed in Tampa to plan logistics for the large crowds that are anticipated. I wanted to get a sense of the range of creative actions being planned and how they are going to keep out-of-towners in good health during a week-long exposure to Florida summer. So I headed up to Tampa to attend the organizer's conference for one such group - the Coalition to March on the RNC.
The two people staffing the registration desk were from the Gainesville chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In my mind, the SDS was the student group at the heart of student political organizing in the 1960's. I thought they had disbanded long ago. Yet here were two young SDS activists handing me a packet of registration materials. Once inside, Jared explained to me that the SDS resurrected itself in 2006, primarily to fight rising student tuition and to oppose United States sponsorship of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Go Team Go!
I met SDS members from Tampa and Orlando as well as Gainesville. I met an Atlanta radio show host. She was talking to Mick who had come down from Minneapolis to share some of his experience organizing the 2008 march against the Repulican National Convention in the Twin Cities. He brought a small contingent with him. I sat down next to Joe, who was a lead organizer from last month's huge protest in Chicago against the NATO and G8 summits. There were quite a few members from various local union chapters. Food Not Bombs has already announced their second-ever National Convention to be held in Tampa during the week leading up to the RNC. So, I was not surprised to see a Food Not Bombs representative. A Veterans for Peace representative was on hand. As was Vivian from Pinellas National Organization for Women (NOW). A couple of folks identified themselves as members of Occupy Tampa. One man was from Occupy the RNC, which appears to have some affiliation with a group called Resist The RNC, but also seemed to be part of this Coalition to March Against the RNC. Perhaps there is more coordination than meets the eye.
After speaking with several attendees, I realized that although this was a protest against the Republican National Committee, most of the organizers in this room would be just as happy protesting the Democratic National Committee. This was most unexpected! But as the website for Resist the RNC states, "Both parties are intricately tied to corporate rule, war, economic injustice, and profess freedom and democracy but crack down on dissent." The desire to claim power for the 99% permeated the room. In order for attendees to get to know each other a little, the following question was put to the group: if you could change just one thing about the world, what would you change? Each attendee answered in their own way. The answers were full of hope and idealism. The following video captures some of that spirit.