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Monday, March 04, 2024
<p>Demonstrators march on the streets of downtown Tampa, Fla., on Monday in protest of the Republican National Convention.</p>

Demonstrators march on the streets of downtown Tampa, Fla., on Monday in protest of the Republican National Convention.

TAMPA, Fla. — With the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac approaching Tampa, UF student activists shrugged and threw on some ponchos.

About 1,000 people attended a rally and march Monday hosted by the Coalition to March on the RNC. Although Isaac shrunk the crowd size from the expected 5,000 people, about 200 UF students and Gainesville residents made their way to Florida’s west coast for the protest.

There were some concerns that bad weather would delay or cancel the protest, but student organizers said that wasn’t an option.The march had a one-day permit to operate, and organizers said the march would happen rain or shine.

“Failure was never an option for us,” said Fernando Figueroa, 22-year-old UF alumnus and a march organizer.

UF students and alumni dotted Perry Harvey Sr. Park in the heart of downtown Tampa as drizzling rain peppered the crowd.

People rushed from tent to tent, hammering out logistics, and others stood among the chanting protesters.

As the rain cleared, students stood arm-in-arm at the front of the march.

A small gaggle of reporters and photographers weaved through the crowd, interviewing protesters and focusing in on those who came decked out in costumes ranging from a yellow submarine to vaginas.

Dozens of officers on foot and bicycles lined the pathway, sectioning off wrong turns with bikes and metal barriers to keep marchers together.

The group marched from the park toward the Tampa Bay Times Forum, spreading across the four-lane street in a group just large enough to fill the space of a typical intersection.

Some were from UF’s Students for a Democratic Society, which held protests last school year about issues including tuition and Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s legislative decisions.

Others were part of The Gainesville Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice, which often protests companies that have policies the organization believes are unfair to migrant workers.

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Some were from Occupy Gainesville, which ran a continuous protest at Bo Diddley Community Plaza during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“It goes to show that your average Gator is more political than average,” Figueroa said.

“Gainesville has played a big role both in the organization and participation of the march.”

Also at the rally were members of various Gainesville groups, including CodePink, the Civic Media Center and Gainesville Veterans for Peace.

Student activists said they braved the weather to oppose the Republican Party’s plans but that this doesn’t necessarily mean they support the Democratic Party.

Several UF activists plan to protest outside the Democratic National Convention as well.

“What we’re saying is we as people want affordable health care, we want jobs, we want peace, and we feel that neither party has been fulfilling that,” said Victor Yengle, a 23-year-old UF economics senior.

“If we want to see that change, we have to be that change.”

Contact Meredith Rutland at mrutland@alligator.org.

Demonstrators march on the streets of downtown Tampa, Fla., on Monday in protest of the Republican National Convention.

A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office member carries a less-than-lethal weapon while watching protesters with a Broward County Sheriff’s officer in downtown Tampa, Fla., during the first day of the Republican National Convention on Monday.

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