I went down to the demonstration…
I live in the Tampa Bay area, and in the run up to the RNC, I thought I’d engage in a little citizen journalism. Or at least wander around the circus and capture shots of crazy people with my camera phone for y’alls’ amusement.
But when the convention actually started, I couldn’t summon the will to leave home, fight the traffic and elbow my way through damp crowds of Republican assholes when I could be home instead watching the circus unfold in air-conditioned comfort with iced cocktails. Until last night, when I finally dragged my ass down there.
I was not alone in my lack of enthusiasm. The big local story is the dearth of drama surrounding the RNC. When I finally made my way to town, I was amazed at the heavy police presence and martial law feel but also by the desolation. I’ve never seen so many cops in my life, and they were all bored shitless.
There were heavily armed Secret Service personnel yawning behind fenced off bank and government buildings, guarding plate glass windows that were utterly un-menaced by a single anarchist cinder block. Homeland Security officers and cops from every corner of the state were riding around in Kubota carts, looking in vain for unruly hippies to hassle.
There are a lot of theories behind this ennui: The shitty economy. Disillusioned Dems. Lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Republicans causing a corresponding paucity of passion in their opponents.
Having seen it first hand, I think there’s a simpler explanation: Jersey barriers. The Tampa Convention Center and Tampa Bay Times Forum venues are located at the tip of a peninsula, and it was pretty much shut down, not only to car traffic but to foot traffic as well. I’m talking about an area that is approximately five or six city blocks deep and seven or more blocks wide.
If you weren’t wearing RNC tags on a lanyard around your neck, you weren’t getting anywhere near the place, and even if you had the tags, you had to stumble along a Jersey barrier perimeter to find a manned checkpoint to gain entry. We saw lots of conventioneers staggering around this desolate hellscape in search of a checkpoint, the men sweaty and panting in their suits and the women precariously negotiating the potholes in high heels and looking angry about what the humidity was doing to their hair.
Demonstration-wise, there was this sad little knot of Paultroons manning the approach to one checkpoint, right next to a smelly Port-O-Let. A motley assortment of Birthers and Truthers lounged on the stairs of a nearby building, listlessly arguing with one another and attempting to press flyers on passersby:
We wandered down to another checkpoint and encountered a group of shouty anti-gay, pro-hellfire fetus fetishists:
It began to rain, and when we sought shelter under a bus stop awning, we ran smack into that attention-whore preacher who caused a big hubbub awhile back by burning a Koran:
He was muttering about burning more Korans, and it turns out the gaggle of chanters were his parishioners. The preacher appears to be angling for a Westboro Baptist South franchise, but he wasn’t attracting much attention. There were a couple of counter-protesters, one of whom had this unkind if amusing sign:
We heard about pro- and anti-RNC marches here and there, but all we saw were confused scrums of people wandering aimlessly in a Jersey barrier wasteland. Which is a pretty apt metaphor for the whole damned thing.
So is this pathetic tableau, created when a despondent Galt-Spawn gave up on the democratic process in disgust and deposited his handmade sign in a city government-sponsored trashcan:
[X-posted at Balloon Juice]