Occupy Tampa Bay and the Golden Elephant

According to tweets by protesters and observers, demonstrators at the Republican National Convention mixed the Bible with politics on Monday afternoon. Creative protesters carried a golden elephant to protest Mitt Romney’s affiliation with Bain Capital. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach tweeted: “Protesters [are] mocking the republicans with a golden elephant. Quite creative…” Demonstrators twisted and gyrated their bodies in poetic dance around the idol.


On Monday afternoon, the ABC Action News website read: “… a group of mostly minimum wage workers marched on Westshore Boulevard and later Ybor City.  The group targeted companies owned, at least in part, by Bain Capital.  That includes Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands, which owns a number of restaurant chains like Outback Steakhouse.” The report continued, “Protesters say, under Bain, the companies have fought to increase employee pay.”

What began as a Monday afternoon rally did not develop into the mass demonstration the Occupy Movement had hoped for, and the city had been preparing for. With fewer protesters than expected showing up to demand social justice, the scene was surprisingly peaceful, turning into a colorful quasi-celebration of anti-establishment sentiment that lasted well into the early hours of Tuesday morning.

A live Internet broadcast on the website, Ustream, showed a dance party with live music around midnight on Tuesday. ‘Occupiers’ were dressed in funny costumes, colorful T-shirts and baseball caps, resembling a Mardi Gras celebration more than an Occupy demonstration. They danced on 19th Street and Seventh Avenue in Tampa Bay to the sound of live music. A chorus sang, “God bless America” as the parade made its way down North 20th Street. Other chants heard throughout the live video stream were, “Whose street? Our street!” echoing mob choruses that have reverberated throughout the United States since September, 2011 when the Occupy Movement – spearheaded by the Canadian activist cadre, “Adbusters” began,  taking North America by storm.

Police barricaded the street with bicycles. Only one arrest was made during the protest: a young man who had refused to remove a red bandana from his face. “The officers marched in cadence, ‘hut, hut, hut.’ They wore helmets with face shields and had batons. They formed a line across the intersection. Then they made another line, until they covered every corner.” according to the Tampa Bay Times. According to that newspaper, which is working in concert with Politico to cover the Republican National Convention, the Occupy Tampa Bay protest was a lower turnout than originally expected, with Tropical Storm Isaac mentioned as the cause of the meager head count. The Tampa Bay authorities had expected a turnout of some 5,000 protesters, but by late Tuesday afternoon, only some 500 heads were counted in the colorful mob.

“A spontaneous march made up of 25 to 30 masked protesters originated about 3 p.m. at the ‘Romneyville’ tent city, several blocks from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, site of the convention.” read a blog post written by a reporter at the scene. “A permitted march ended in the protest zone, but a large chunk of protesters broke off and headed north.” read another news report. “Their destination, they said, was ‘Romneyville,’ a collection of tents bivouacked behind an army-navy surplus store on Tampa Street just north of downtown, though, the parade only made it as far as Morgan and Scott streets.” read the early afternoon report, painting the scene of surprisingly mellow and playful demonstrators who buzzed through the streets of Tampa Bay, Florida’s financial district, an area relatively smaller than that of Wall Street in Lower Manhattan.

One attendee tweeted: “Man police are trying to get folks into a small narrow protest zone.. Folks are chanting occupy Tampa Bay oh way oh way oh way…”

Another tweet read: “Oh boy, they brought their drums. ‘All night all day, occupy TampaBay.’”

The official Occupy Wall Street movement Twitter feed read: “Don’t worry. People will be at both the #RNC & #DNC to protest, because we aren’t fooled by this horse race #election.”

About the Author
Scott Krane has been blogging for The Times of Israel since 2012. His writing has also appeared in The Atlantic, Tablet, The Jerusalem Post and the Daily Caller, among others.