First Day of Protesting at the RNC
For the first day of the Republican National Convention, cancelled that day because of rain, DRM went out with organizers Juan and Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez. They were kind enough to let us crash at their place, a homey apartment where you can’t help but feel a strong Ozzy and Harriet vibe. We planned out the next few days, and in the morning they drove us out to an event hosted by Get Equal. That day they helping to promote LGBT issues, immigrant rights and a host of other progressive causes.
The rain was coming down by the time we got to Get Equal around 10am. The entire day it would alternate between enough sun and rain for everyone in DRM, my ginger self especially, to get soaked with rain and sweat while we were sunburned. The turnout wasn’t what was expected with many demonstrators being chased off by the weather, but those that had come were spirited nonetheless. Although the worst of the tropical storm we were expecting was going to miss us, it still wouldn’t make for comfortable demonstrating.
Code Pink was donning what looked like a large pink felt rope necklaces down to their knees that, upon closer inspection, turned out to be full-body vagina costumes. They were amongst 5 or 6 groups passing out pamphlets and little fliers. They passed me a few pieces of paper and, under the sticker reading “Make Out Not War” with lip marks in the O’s was an invitation to “Bring Your Vagina Open Mic.” The anarchists had made it out dressed in black with masks or bandanas, as had the Ron Paul demonstrators, both groups often wearing dreadlocks and shirtless with a pungent aroma. These groups gathered in front of a stage flanked by speakers covered in plastic to guard from the elements.
Walking around the crowd, you could get a feeling of some of the motivations and ideals of the people waiting for the speakers to come out. Felipe and Juan were a young, gay, married couple, however, the state of Florida refuses to recognize their marriage. Between the two of them, they “adopted” an underprivileged young man who was struggling in school and with poverty. Also, Felipe is a DREAMer, and wants to bring more attention to undocumented rights as well. Scattered throughout the crowd were Occupiers, Code Pink, Black Bloc and interests as varied as making Romney pay for putting the dog on the roof to throwing a chair through a Starbucks window to jump start the revolution. The least realistic person there may still have been the Green Party candidate.
Speakers walked up to the stage one by one, and each talked about their cause. The Green Party’s VP pick was spoke about poverty, and how difficult being a homeless mother was for her. Another man came up on the stage to talk about how the FBI raided his home, and would have put him in prison had it not been for his community organizing to support him. Code Pink and several other groups made it to the stage to give their own messages on equality and other progressive themes, and then, it was time to march.
The march wasn’t particularly eventful, with only a few minor incidents of some of the anarchist marchers like Black Bloc trying to provoke police with chants and swearing. After some fairly uneventful marching, chanting and sign waving, we made our way to another stage, where the speakers went up again.
“Undocumented rights are gay rights, and gay rights are undocumented rights, because there are many queer DREAMers” Felipe spoke into a microphone, and went on to elaborate on the overlap and why both groups of organizers should help each other. He talked about all of the rights which gay couples lack that straight couples have, and how he and his husband were frustrated with all of the hardships that they had to face unnecessarily.
After Felipe, an organizer named Marisol took the stage and spoke about her own family. Her mother and her entire family had to swim from Durango, Mexico into Texas. They all nearly drowned on the way, and her mother is still terrified of the water. Her father, as a teenager, lashed himself to a train for 4 days and nights, listening to people fall to their death along the way. They met as farm workers in an orange field in Florida, and started their family there. Her story of mixed-status families is much more common than most people realize, and she’s registered to vote in Florida.