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Voter Suppression Rally In Tampa Disrupted By Activists With Threatening Fliers

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VOTER SUPPRESSION TAMPA
Activists Robert Stevens (center) and John Nelson (right) debate a crowd prior to voter suppression protesters marching on Aug. 28, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (Photo by Edward Linsmier/Getty Images) | Getty Images

UPDATE: The group appears to be a hoax. A HuffPost reader pointed out that the two who disrupted Tuesday's protest look like the ones who formed the phony Occupy Occupy Wall Street group last year. For that stunt, they posed as Wall Street-types looking to "take back what is rightfully ours." The two managed to get on a CNN segment. But in that stunt, they did not advocate violence.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tuesday evening's protest against so-called voter fraud laws was briefly disrupted by a pair of apparently conservative activists. The two tried to engage the small crowd in the Ybor City neighborhood's Centennial Park before being quickly shouted down and then mobbed by the press.

The activist pair said they just wanted to engage in a dialogue, but they attempted to pass out fliers that were hardly constructive. The fliers, from a group called Protect the Polls, were so absurdly threatening that at least one journalist suggested they might be fake. The handouts, which repeat what is on the group's website, stated:

Voter fraud is more prevalent today than in anytime in United States History. Florida Gun Owners are banding together to make sure that, in this election, no persons without government ID will able vote [sic]. We need your help! Sign the petition to make Protect the Polls law.

Under the Protect the Polls law, anyone suspected of committing voter fraud can be fired upon -- providing the weapon is registered and operated by its licensed owner. If Protect the Polls is implemented, the gun owner would face no criminal charges as he/she would be protecting the right we all have to a fair presidential election.

The fliers themselves could be seen as an act of attempted voter suppression.

Violence over voting rights is nothing new; it was certainly prevalent during the civil rights era. Recently, Florida has been called "the new Selma" for its draconian attempts to restrict how people register to vote, when they vote and how they vote. The state legislation has had an effect: Registration of Democratic voters has been down in Florida.

On its website, Protect the Polls compares its proposed bill favorably to Florida's notorious stand-your-ground law.

One of the two activists, who told reporters his name was John Nelson, wore a Romney/Ryan button on his light-blue shirt. He had a stack of fliers in his hand. If it was all a hoax, neither Nelson nor his companion broke character. After a few moments with reporters, they quickly exited the park.

It's unclear who is funding the group, which has two followers on Twitter.

After the incident, Rev. Charles McKenzie, Florida coordinator for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, took the stage to give the most rousing speech of the evening. He railed against what he considered Florida's attempts at voter suppression, aimed specifically at minorities.

"The civil war is over," McKenzie bellowed into the microphone. "It's our time. It is America's time! ... We are America."

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