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.