Tyler Mitchell, a young community organizer in St. Petersburg, took a drag on his cigarette as he and his friends stood on the sidewalk, describing how they dropped a banner during a speech by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker attracting a lot of media attention and disrupting a carefully planned rally.
"We'd been planning it for a couple of weeks," said Mitchell.Mitchell and a group of community organizers from Illinois, who came to the Republican convention to protest, decided Walker would be "the optimal target," Mitchell said, because of the governor's connection to the Koch brothers and his elimination of collective bargaining rights for most public workers. So they went to see him speak at the Faith and Freedom Coalition rally in Tampa.
"We got our team together, and we went there -- we had to sit through about two hours of really painful right-wing religious rhetoric," Mitchell said.
"We listened to Newt Gingrich talk about the sanctity of marriage," Mitchell's friend Brian Fischer added.
"Seriously, every speaker that came up, I wanted to drop the banner on," Mitchell said.
The "team" that held the banner, up in the balcony, was dressed up to fit in. Down on the floor, their comrades were wearing dreadlocks and bright colors. "They stood up and started yelling, 'Walker hates workers.' That was our signal," Mitchell said.
His group dropped a banner that read: "Walker Hates Working Families."
"The cops grabbed it and pulled it up, and zip-tied our wrists," Mitchell said. "That's when the team across from us dropped the other banner."
That one read: "Walker has a Koch problem."
The second banner took longer to tear down.
Watch the protest.
The cops were friendly, though, Mitchell and friends recounted. After all, Tampa is a pro-union, Democratic town.
"When we told them what the banner said, one of them laughed," Mitchell said. "One of them quoted Robin Williams -- the politicians should have to wear the uniforms of their corporate sponsors."
"They said they liked my tattoos," Mitchell's wife, Jen Romanelli, a case manager at a local residential treatment facility, added.
"It was the most pleasant interaction I ever had with someone who was dressed like a Ghostbuster," said Fischer, who works in administration at an unnamed local company -- "the man," his friends joked.
Why did a group of St. Petersburg locals decide to pick on Walker?
"He just epitomizes what we can't stand -- for all progressives. We all followed the recall in Wisconsin, and we were so sorry when he won," Mitchell said. "As much as you guys hate him, we all hate him, too."