TAMPA, FLORIDA – Police outnumbered demonstrators Monday as hundreds took to Tampa’s streets to protest the Republican convention.
Roughly 250 protesters took part in Monday’s “March on the RNC,” a figure dramatically lower than the 5,000 people organizers said would take part in the rally.
Organizers blamed the depressed turnout on Tropical Storm Isaac, which led Republicans to postpone high-profile GOP speakers originally set to take the stage on Monday, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.).
Nearly 1,000 officers were on hand to ensure the rally was peaceful, about four times the number of demonstrators in the streets.
After the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a joint bulletin warning Tampa’s convention could be targeted by anarchists, police in tan uniforms were positioned all along the protest route.
Officers lined the streets, encircling the mobile demonstration with fleets of bicycles, all-terrain vehicles, horses and SUVs in an attempt to contain possible attacks before they became violent. The demonstrators wended their way through Tampa chanting variations of, “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The RNC must go!”
The most tense moment of the day occurred shortly before 5 p.m., as about 100 police in riot gear formed a human blockade preventing the mass of protesters from approaching the convention center. After about 20 minutes and a torrential downpour, the group of demonstrators moved on in the opposite direction and the police stood down.
As of press time, there had been only one arrest — a Florida man named Jason Wilson who was detained for holding a machete, according to local police.
A wide array of causes was represented, ranging from Code Pink’s call to end the war in Afghanistan to the Green Party’s push for people not to vote for either the Democratic or Republican candidate.
Also at the rally were Students for a Democratic Society, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a handful of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) supporters.
Protesters with the Occupy movement were also in full force with calls to dismantle the United States’ economic and political system.
“Our economy is mostly electronic,” protester Andrew Speirs told a group of reporters. “We have no backing to our currency. It’s fake money. It’s actually just printed debt by the Federal Reserve bank. And we can’t pay back our national debt; we can only create more debt by printing money.”
Speirs, who has been living “on the streets” since October, told a reporter from Fox News that he wasn’t planning to vote for any candidate come November.
“I don’t think we have any electable choices that will fix the system we have,” he said. “I see our voting system as corrupt.”
Law enforcement officials fenced off a large empty square lot several blocks away from the convention center where demonstrators spoke from a stage provided by the city.
In last week’s bulletin, FBI and DHS officials warned that anarchists could use the protests as a trial run for demonstrations during the Democratic National Convention, which, they cautioned, could turn violent.