Blocked roads, police standing guard, and helicopters hovering over head. This was the scene near the Tampa Bay Times Forum where "March on the R.N.C." protesters assembled.
Getting to the scene of the protest was difficult. Between the road blocks, traffic and the weather, it felt nearly impossible to get where the protesters where. Getting on the scene of the protest took hours, but finding the way to the demonstrations proved to be the calmest part of the day.
When approaching the location where protester where supposed to be marching, all that was there were a large number of police, and a small work station set up by the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
After waiting nearly an hour for the demonstrations to march through, the sounds of helicopters flying above became more frequent. When the sound of the helicopters became louder, I knew that the demonstrators were not far away.
The moment when I saw a wall of police with their flashing lights, and a sea of people following close behind, I thought to myself, 'here we go!'
This event would be my first time covering a major demonstration, so to be completely transparent I had no idea what to expect when the protest began. 'Do I jump in the crowd to get a great photograph?' 'Do I stay on the sideline next to the police for relative safety?' 'What should I do if riots break out?' All of these thoughts ran through my head, until I remembered one great piece of advice a fellow journalist told me earlier in the day, "Listen to your heart, but just go with your gut." And that is exactly what I did.
I cleared my mind, observed my surroundings and followed my gut all the way into the middle of the demonstration.
"March on the RNC," is a demonstration that consists of multiple organizations and advocacy groups. While walking through the crowds, there were pockets of different groups and organizations. There were the average "Occupy" protesters, who were talking about the 1 percent, and what they think is a general unfairness in our economic system. Then there was "CODEPINK," which is a women-initiated grassroots movement to promote social justice. Then, there were what other protesters referred to as the 'anarchist'. The 'anarchist' were dressed in head to toe black, often with scarfs over their faces. When I asked what their purpose for protesting was, many wouldn't answer the question, or they would say something to the effect of wanting to bring the 'system' down.
Generally, the protest was peaceful and there was no action taken against protesters by the police. Something that many protesters and other members of the press in the crowd did not expect to be the case. On the other hand, there are those who expect the protests to grow over the next few days, and become increasingly energized when the presumptive Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will arrive in Tampa.
Only time will tell whether the relationship between the police, the protesters, and the press will continue to be calm and cordial over the next few days at the Republican National Convention.
NOTE: I will be following up on protests that may take place during the latter part of the RNC.