TAMPA – It's still early. Perhaps still pre-season as these things are calculated. But the demonstrators in town to disrupt the GOP convention haven't been much of a force so far.
A couple of bands of idlers attempted to block streets Tuesday, but disbanded when the cops told them they would be arrested if they persisted. There was a comic moment, of sorts, when that Cloud Cuckoo-Land church out of Kansas, the bunch that's obsessed with gays and protests homosexuality at military funerals, was confronted by another group of protesters whooping up gays rights. Men kissed men and women kissed women in front of the Kansas red-hots in an attempt to rile them up. The cops separated and dispersed them before things went off the rails.
Senator Marco Rubio, who became a fair hand at repartee with hecklers on the campaign trail, went one on one with several malcontents at a breakfast at the hotel the Florida delegation is staying at in Palm Harbor. While Rubio was speaking a middle-aged man with a tattoo on his neck stood up and shouted, "Hey Rubio! We demand that the GOP stop whoring themselves out to the big money interests that are raping this planet and trying to squeeze every last dime out of the working class."
Rubio replied, "I guess he's not happy with the hotel assignment," alluding to the fact that the RNC had stashed the Florida delegation at a hotel a good distance from the convention site.
After cops had escorted the heckler out and Rubio started to speak again, a woman blurted out, "Hey Rubio! Corporations need to pay their fair share!"
Before breakfast and Rubio's speech were gotten down, five demonstrators had been escorted out, given trespass warnings and promises that they would be arrested if they returned. They didn't.
Compared to other events where demonstrators have been the tail that wagged the dog, this is small beer. But there are two days left for the ratbags to hit their stride. And the clouds and rain of early in the week are being replaced by late-August Florida heat, which may add surliness to the demonstrators' discontents.
So far the ratio of cops to demonstrators at these minor eruptions has been about three to one. A fine proportion, which may not survive the week. On a personal note to illustrate this, I did see three cops standing together, supporting themselves with tears in their eyes yesterday. I asked a by-stander who appeared to be knowledgeable what the officers were so disturbed about. "It's very sad," he told me. "Their demonstrator went home."
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