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Protesters' Paltry RNC Presence Surprises Some

Few demonstrations have been held since the Republican National Convention began on Monday. It ends today.

Blame it on Monday's gloomy weather. Or the sizzle of the August heat after the sky cleared on Tuesday.

Whatever the reason, protesters in downtown Tampa haven't shown up in droves as city officials expected during the Republican National Convention.

Those who ventured away from Romneyville - a makeshift headquarters for protesters - toward the Tampa Convention Center have gathered in pockets at intersections, gripping Ron Paul signs or chanting in groups. Last night, protesters taunted officers by dangling doughnuts on sticks.

Some, like Doug Marris, chose the lone wolf route.

On Thursday morning, Marris, a 55-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran, held a white sign bearing a plethora of hand-written phrases and acronyms like "domestic spying" and "corporate bribes." The upper right corner of the sign read, "The Real Terrorists Work in D.C."

Nearby, more than a dozen members of various law enforcement agencies stood guard at the intersection of Ashley and Whiting streets.

Even Marris, an Ocala resident who has been protesting since Tuesday, was surprised that more people hadn't shown up to voice their opinions, too.

"I thought there'd be more Americans here," said Marris, who plans in November to write in Ron Paul as a candidate. "They're scared. Fifty million dollars (spent) on security, and they're afraid to get arrested ... I'm not afraid of anybody."

Meanwhile, what has historically been a contentious relationship between the authorities and protesters turned civil when Tampa police officers dropped off sandwiches, fruit and water to Romneyville protesters.

The gesture even garnered a positive response from protesters on their website.

"A special thanks to the TPD for dropping off much needed supplies today," read a message on the site.

At a media briefing on Thursday morning, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said her department is using a few simple strategies with protesters.

"We approach these groups and ask what their goal is," said Castor. "We'll take over an intersection so they can be photographed by the media."

Larry McKinnon, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, said officials there were trained to "ignore any verbal taunts" and baiting that protesters sometimes use when confronting members of law enforcement.

With 1,200 members of the Hillsborough sheriff's office present downtown - the bulk of the RNC's security detail - McKinnon said it's too early to tell whether protesters will buck the trend on the last day of the convention.

"They were never able to get their drive started," said McKinnon of the protesters, "but we still have another few hours yet."

Why do you think the protester presence has been so low? Let us know in the comments section.

Leland Wheeler August 30, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Perhaps the pictures of the militarized police force the purchase of tanks and drones intimidated the protestors as those who accepted the 50 million for providing security expected. Then again, when free speech zones are a half mile from the action who really sees or hears protests? You watch enough Republicans and hear them speak and you see the futility of confronting them. Choose your battles--the protests are far from over we just choose not to waste energy confronting ornery stupidity. Many of us realize that the government is run by a global corporate cartel and we are no longer participating in the "distractions." Elections are simply theater for the hypnotized. Those of us who have awakened are aim at another target. By and large, the hypnotized don't protest. They watch life from a television.
Red August 31, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Auh. ... .... They didn't get to bust any heads and that's always just so much fun for the knuckle draggers.
Charlie August 31, 2012 at 05:05 PM
With such a wide gamut of information today, who needs or pays any attention to protestors? These people need to direct their resources to other means, instead of wasting money to travel to an event, that no one pays any attention to them. God bless our law enforcement personnel. I certainly would hate to call on a protestor, if I ever felt my life, was in any kind of endangerment!
Walt Kowalski August 31, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Don't even TRY and "Occupy" my lawn!
Bob Doyle SR August 31, 2012 at 05:32 PM
"RED" You are obviously not familier with the LEOs of the entire "TAMPABAY" communities. Tampa PD is rarely knuckle draggers, unless it is reaching down to your gutter to pick you up.
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