Occupying the GOP’s Tampa Convention

By Jilian Fama

Aug 22, 2012 11:25am
ap tampa ows dm 120821 wblog Occupying the GOPs Tampa Convention

Chris O''Meara/AP Photo

The Occupy Wall Street movement born last year in a New York City park has made its way to Voice of Freedom park in Tampa Bay, just in time for the GOP convention.

The Occupy Tampa movement has moved into Voice of Freedom park, just outside of downtown Tampa, for the past three months, according to the property owner Joe Redner. Redner, who also owns an entertainment club two miles away, came across some money after winning a lawsuit against the city a few years back.

“I took that money and bought two lots of land that were known to be drug holes in the West Tampa area,” he said. “I used the money to buy the lots and create Voice of Freedom Park.”

Get more pure politics at ABCNews.com/Politics and a lighter take on the news at OTUSNews.com

Redner says that he wanted to put his money towards a cause that would help the community and invited the Occupy movement to make use of his park.

“People have been here for about three months,” Redner tells ABC News, but he says that more have been showing up in the weeks before the Republican National Convention which is scheduled for Aug. 27 – 30.

After that, however, the clock will start running down on the occupiers in Voice of Freedom Park. They will have to leave by Sept. 15.

The city had begun to put pressure on Redner to make the Occupiers leave his property. Though he is an avid supporter of the Occupy movement, Redner made an agreement with the city, promising that the protesters would be out of Voice of Freedom Park come September.

“I am not making them leave,” Redner says. “The city was kicking protesters out of public parks downtown. They were being harassed and getting put in jail. I thought I was doing the city a favor by letting them stay at my park, but I know they can’t stay forever.”

When asked if the protesters had affected his business or the neighboring area Redner replied, “Absolutely not.” “There is no interaction between my business and the demonstrators.”

According to Redner, some people say that the movement has brought some issues to the city of West Tampa but he says that is just not true.

“There are a lot of jobless people in West Tampa so there are always issues here. It’s just the nature of the city. It has absolutely nothing to do with Occupy.”

ABC News spoke with the West Tampa Police Department who also agreed saying that they have not seen an increase in crime since the occupiers took Voice of Freedom Park.

One of those protesters is Kelly Benjamin, who works for Florida’s Consumer Action Network. Though he lives in a house and is not camping out alongside other protesters, Benjamin tells ABC News that he will be marching alongside the Occupy movement to “remind politicians that they should we working for the people that they are representing, not their corporate sponsors.”

One of the first protests that he will be involved in a march for what Benjamin calls “the world’s biggest cocktail party.”

The “cocktail party, ” formally known as the kick-off party for the 2012 Republican National Convention, will take place on Sunday, Aug. 26 just before the commencement of the GOP convention. This event will host politicians, delegates and others in town for the convention.

“We are marching against the world’s biggest cocktail party,” Benjamin says. “It represents everything that’s broken about our country. Ordinary people can’t get into the event. Instead, we’re sent to a designated protest pit.”

Not willing to be contained, the Occupiers will be marching to Tropicana Field in neighboring St. Petersburg. The march will kick off the beginning of relentless demonstrating during convention week. A spokesperson from Tropicana tells ABC News that convention events will take place in the stadium, but the protesters most likely won’t be allowed inside because of security reasons.

According to Benjamin,  over a thousand people will come together in protest.

The Tampa native tells ABC News that “people are coming to Tampa with good intentions. They are coming to air their grievances and get their voices heard.”

 

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