Someone was fast asleep in a tent next to the stage with a very poor, but loud, sound system, where the unfocused message about the 99%, the bankers, and the Republicans blared. Someone strummed a guitar, commented on the police helicopter overhead, and sang about the “warfare waged on us by the 1%” and the lack of public transportation.
A young man stood with a black bandana around his mouth because, as he said, he “could.”
An elderly man in very dirty clothes from the “Rainbow Family” claimed to be from the original “Beatnik school.” He was very friendly and talked with us at length about previous protests (a “strong anarchist scene” in Minneapolis in 2008), even giving us his phone number, before he went up on stage to recite his “poetry.” He told us that he was running the “kitchen,” a table in the encampment. The stench arising in the Florida humidity, however, would be enough to spoil anyone’s appetite. We wondered about diseases.
Armies of friendly police stood placidly a ways off, watching to make sure the children didn’t hurt themselves or the poor denizens of one of the most blighted areas of Tampa. On Thursday, I would learn that they sent over 100 boxed lunches to the hungry protesters. Yet, a couple nights earlier, a reporter had presented the place as a post of freedom against a veritable police state. The shots of Romneyville tents lined up against a moonlit Tampa skyline made it look serene.
Reporters seemed to equal protesters in number, and they seemed desperate to get a report, a story, that fit the overarching narrative. It was a bizarre sight to see a reporter from a major network interviewing a homeless person about the presidential race.
During the three days, I saw pro-Obama signs. While candidate Mitt Romney was vilified for the bad economy, not one sign or speech attacked Obama.
Back in the 1960s, Communists supported efforts to dupe vulnerable, troubled teenagers. In Tampa in 2012, there were the elders from the communist-supporting National Lawyers Guild and ACLU, identified by their hats and literature. There were a few people wearing union t-shirts. I saw a representative from MoveOn.org. There were at least four people from Pennsylvania Working Families. There were representatives of gay rights groups, like www.getequal.org. Dream Defenders was there, still agitating for Trayvon Martin. There were the Raging Grannies, and Code Pink everywhere, with Media Benjamin leading the same half-dozen women often dressed as giant vaginas.