POLITICS

'Romneyville' protest more of a ghost town

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TAMPA, Fla. -- It's three o'clock on a sticky, steamy afternoon, and "Romneyville," the Occupy-inspired encampment protesting the Republican National Convention, feels deserted. Fewer than a half dozen people are around the site, which is tucked behind an Army-Navy thrift store on the outer reaches of this city's downtown.

"It might be the heat," 30-year-old Harry Hoffman said by way of explaining the lack of protesters. Temperatures were pushing 95 degrees, but it felt hotter, even under the shade of a tent.

Tampa officials poured $50 million into security for the convention, expecting up to 15,000 protesters to flood the city during the four-day event. But the ranks of protesters have fallen far below expectations.

Total damage done by the demonstrators is estimated to be about $200, and there were just three arrests, police said.

"Romneyville" -- named after the "Hooverville" shantytowns protesting President Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression -- held a demonstration Wednesday that police said attracted fewer than 100 protesters. Hoffman said there might have been as many as 150.

Despite the camp's name, the group isn't just protesting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Most of the protesters -- except for a couple of women holding a "Christians for Obama" sign -- said they also oppose President Obama.

"I don't like either one of them," said 60-year-old John Penley, of Asheville, N.C.

Penley said he helped establish the New York-based Occupy Wall Street encampment and plans to set up an "Obamaville" in Charlotte, N.C., near the Democratic National Convention next week.

"Mitt Romney, he's just like a fake, because he's a liberal Republican who is now trying to act like he's a member of the Tea Party to get elected, [and] he's picking on the poor," Penley said. "But neither him nor Obama -- neither one -- is talking about important issues facing America today like the possibility of a major war with Iran [or] veteran suicides."

George Ehrhart, 26, calls the Republican Party platform "extreme" and said voters put too much stock in Romney's good looks.

"If he was five inches shorter, bald and had a different shaped jaw, would he be standing on that stage tonight?" Erhart mused.

Thursday's theme for the "Romneyville" camp was "Shut Down Bain Capital," targeting the venture capital firm Romney once led.

"It has taken part in many 'hostile takeovers' which included laying off workers and selling companies for spare parts," the group said in a statement. "Occupy Tampa and the Tampa Bay Regional General Assembly passed through consensus to make Shut Down Bain Capital a national call to action on the day that Mitt Romney accepts the RNC's nomination."

Still, there were no signs around the camp Thursday indicating opposition to Bain. Instead, protesters sat quietly inside tents while cars and buses packed with conventiongoers whizzed by, driving the final mile to see Romney accept his party's nomination.

hpeterson@washingtonexaminer.com

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