Residents of Tampa Bay, Fla., are about to have their lives disrupted, not by a hurricane but by the heavily scripted exercise in political propaganda that is the Republican National Convention. Starting Aug. 27, roads and bridges will be closed, area businesses and schools shuttered, transportation services altered and heavily armed police will be everywhere. For four days, those who call Tampa Bay home will be excluded from the downtown convention area and subject to police search.
Tens of millions of dollars have been spent, not to help struggling homeowners or to keep needed public services open, but to purchase high-tech surveillance equipment and the latest in crowd-control weapons. Untold millions are being spent by corporations to wine and dine the delegates and media representatives at high-priced hotels and restaurants. City parks are being reserved for this excess, including one with a 3,000-square-foot tent.
What the Coalition to March on the RNC labels the “Republican agenda” is expected to bring thousands of workers, students, women, immigrants, seniors — in other words, the 99% — into the streets to demand jobs, health care, education, equality and peace.
In response to that right to assemble, protest and speak, city leaders and RNC organizers developed a web of new ordinances, restricting the most elementary of free speech and assembly rights and expanding police powers — all the while engaging in a deviousmedia campaign to demonize those who think issues like jobs, health care and education should be top priorities. The same is true in Charlotte, N.C., the site of the Democratic National Convention Sept. 3-6.
The stated positions of the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan ticket reflect a program designed by the most entrenched reactionary and right-wing elements of Wall Street’s financial and industrial billionaires. In their eyes, the only solution to the malaise that is infecting the capitalist system is to continue to eradicate any social programs that benefit the great majority. “Cut and privatize” are the answers to every demand raised by the people, whether for education, health care, transportation or any other social necessities. Government programs that fulfill human needs are to be sacrificed to ensure high, sustained profits, interest payments to the banks, and military interventions, occupations and bases worldwide.
The conventions of the two parties representing the interests of the ruling class in the U.S. are, in effect, very elaborate commercials, trying to sell a bill of shoddy goods to a consuming public. The emphasis is on the image, whether cheering audiences, cascading balloons or glitzy videos. Pundits will spend countless hours on the air trying to find something interesting to talk about as they scrutinize the speeches for a nugget of substance. Instead, the “analyses” will focus on presentation, with no one commenting that “the emperor has no clothes.”
The real talk about issues, how to solve the capitalist crisis that is devastating families across the country and around the world, will be out on the streets of Tampa and later in Charlotte. Unemployed workers; those without health insurance; students overwhelmed by debt; communities of color plagued by racial profiling and police repression; labor, workers, LGBTQ people and the disabled battling regressive legislation; those without homes; and veterans and all who are tired of endless war are challenging the 1%’s vision of the future. The sanctity of profit over people is a discredited answer. The effectiveness of real progressive change through the ballot is being contested by the power of the street.
The Coalition to March on the RNC has overcome all the obstacles placed in its way to bring together a diverse cross section of people, who actually represent the majority in this country. These organizers have won a permit to march within sight and sound of the Republican Convention and have fashioned a program of speakers totally unlike those who will deliver their canned speeches to a select audience.
On Monday, Aug. 27, the opening day of the RNC, thousands will start gathering at 10 a.m. in Perry Harvey Sr. Park, 1200 N. Orange Ave. The 1.1 mile march to the Protest RNC Square begins at noon. A rally including all those voices excluded from the stage inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum will “speak truth to power” and claim it for themselves.
Just a few days later, on Sunday, Sept. 2, another march will be taking place in Charlotte. Dubbed the March on Wall Street South — Charlotte has the largest concentration of banks and corporate offices outside of New York City — a coalition demanding people’s power will “lift up the voices of those most impacted by economic crises, war, cutbacks, deportations and foreclosures” during the Democratic National Convention.
For more information on the two demonstrations, go to marchonthernc.org and wallstsouth.org.