March on the RNC organizers expect 5,000

4:51 PM, Aug 15, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - In a park where Mel Horton exercises every day with jumping jacks, protesters are planning to exercise their right to free speech.

"We're going to hear from about 30 speakers," said Jared Hamil, a Teamster, who is helping organize the March on the RNC.

Photo Gallery: Coalition to protest on first day of RNC

During a Wednesday news conference at Perry Harvey Sr. Park, The Coalition to March on the RNC said on Aug. 27, they expect about 5,000 people from across the U.S. to converge on the park. They'll hear from a variety of speakers and then march through downtown Tampa to a protest area within sight of the convention hall.

Although the groups involved vary from labor to students, they're uniting under some common themes.

"We're here to demand good jobs, healthcare, affordable education, equality and peace," Hamil explained.

Among those planning to wear their marching shoes is Skye Schmelzer of Temple Terrace. Homeless during some of her high school years, the 20-year-old University of Florida student's main worry now is the rising cost of education.

"My friends and I almost joke around about who has most debt, but it's really not a joke at all-- it's serious," she said.

So will the protest remain peaceful?

During the 2008 RNC convention in Minnesota, there were clashes between protesters and police. But activist Mick Kelly, who helped organize the main Minnesota march, says that event was peaceful and that is also the game plan for Tampa's march.

"I can't stress this enough," said Kelly. "We are having a protest that anyone of you can bring your family to."

Still, with thousands of people involved, just how controlled can a march be?

"I don't want my windows bashed in," said Ian Brooke, the manager at Gilligan's, a bar and restaurant along the march route. Brooke said he's been in contact with some of the protest organizers and plans to be open on the 27th with plenty of food, water and Gatorade to sell.

"I'm definitely hopeful that things will be calm," said Brooke. "We'll see what happens."

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