RNC: Protest zone more like bikini zone today

By Josh Rojas/Holly Gregory, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

During the Republican National Convention most of the action has been happening on the downtown Tampa streets, but there were a couple protesters in the protest zone today.

Curtis Hannum and Rachael Hope traveled to Tampa from Los Angeles to protest the GOP's stance on climate change.
They sang a song for our cameras.

"If everybody had an ocean across the USA, then everybody would be sinking like Florida one day."

Hannum and Hope held a polar bear puppet and surfboard protest signs. One of those signs read: "Florida's going away party".

The protesters say if something isn't done soon about climate change Florida is going to be underwater in the future. That's a message they believe both the RNC and the DNC are not addressing.

"It's completely inappropriate that it's not being discussed at this convention,” Hope said. “We're here to say people let's ask them to discuss it. Let's ask our media to discuss it."

"It's like climate change is happening. (Polar bear voice: "It's like terrible.") And you know it's something that we have to do something about,” said Hannum. “We're actually starting an eight day hunger strike that we're going to take to the Charlotte convention to get the politicians and the news media to pay attention to climate change."

The only other person we saw was a 57-year-old man in a speedo riding his bike around the protest zone.

He said he's not a protester but needs a job. He's an Independent who said he's leaning toward voting for Mitt Romney.

Low protester turnout blamed on location and finances

The Occupy Wall Street group has been set up at Camp Romneyville, which is protester-central located several blocks away from the Forum.

A bus full of Occupiers from New York arrived Wednesday but several other states were a no-show.

One of the organizers of Romneyville said they expected hundreds of people from all over the U.S. but then it just fizzled out.

"We get a lot of response as this; ‘we would love to be there, but we can't afford to come down into Florida. It's too far away.  It's far away from everything.  We have no money.  We barely have jobs to survive ourselves' and that's what we're getting. The working poor, the people that want to help us can't come down here,” said John Alexander.

Police on protests: few disturbances and arrests

Thursday afternoon, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said she couldn't be prouder of law enforcement officials and their handling of spontaneous protests.

Chief Castor said she's admittedly pleasantly surprised that there have been so few disturbances and arrests. She credits the good relationship between police and protesters talking it out.

"Approaching these groups and asking them, what their goal is. What's your end plan, what do you want to accomplish? And within the realm of possibility we're facilitating that,” she said. "We have told them they can express themselves in any way, shape or form they feel necessary as long as it doesn't cross over into criminal behavior, and we're very fortunate not to see any of that criminal behavior."

Colonel Jim Previtera, who's in charge of the Hillsborough County jails, said they've only booked two protesters into the jail and because it's been so peaceful he's been slowly scaling back resources every day.