Vocal crowds at US Republican convention

Protester turnout may be lower than expected, but those who are in Tampa are vocal and enthusiastic.

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    We were told to expect thousands of protestors, and Tampa is certainly more than ready for them.

    Downtown federal buildings are shielded by high steel fences, the police are armed to the teeth and manned checkpoints make moving around arduous and paperwork-intensive.

    By mid-morning on Monday, however, it was obvious that the number of protestors was going to fall far short of estimates: a few hundred rather than the thousands the city had prepared for.

    Nevertheless they were, like many others confined to the outskirts of the convention, vocal and enthusiastic.

    One young woman I met amidst the throng of bullhorn-carrying, banner-waving protestors was Nelini Stamp, from a group calling themselves the Dream Defenders. She's travelled here from Miami and is articulate, well informed and, above all, angry at the Republican Party agenda.

    "I am here because I couldn't afford to go to college, couldn't afford a higher education and I just want to have a voice," she said.

    Nelini's family was recently evicted from their home after being foreclosed on. That's something residents of Tampa can understand all too well: this part of Florida suffers from an overly high rate of foreclosure. Many in the crowd refer to themselves as the "99 per cent", a term that became popular during the Occupy Wall Street movement and one that still resonates with many Americans.

    These protestors are not just angry at the Republican Party's stance on things like women's reproductive rights and gay marriage, they are also angry at the entire US political system.

    "What our country was founded on, democracy, it's being destroyed," said another masked protestor, who chose not to share his name.

    Over the past couple of days I've also attended a rally for the Texas Congressman Ron Paul and the Tea Party's Unity 2012 gathering. There, too, one saw vocal and enthusiastic crowds who, at times, have been at odds with the Republican Party agenda. There is certainly no love lost between Ron Paul's no nonsense, no compromise supporters and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who will be named the Republican nominee for president.

    When I asked one supporter at the the rally why, given that Ron Paul won few delegates and is retiring soon, they continue to come out for public events, she laughed.

    "And leave it to these two jokers? No way."

    The other "joker" she was referring to was President Barack Obama.


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