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Hundreds gather to protest GOP, student issues


The presidential hopefuls at the NBC Republican Presidential Candidates Debate were not the only ones to spar with their opinions Monday night. Hordes of protesters were more than willing to express their own views for those outside the secured Theatre 1.

Anti-immigration protesters, the College Democrats at USF, Occupy USF, Occupy Tampa and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) were among the troops that descended on campus Monday, before the potential presidents took the stage at 9 p.m. in Theatre 1.

Between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., a group of about 40 demonstrators — comprised of members of the College Democrats at USF, the Florida Immigration Coalition and SDS — convened on W. Holly Drive behind the Marshall Student Center (MSC) in protest of Republican stances on immigration.

“We’re here today to try and show our point of view,” said Jean Cocco, a member of the College Democrats at USF and a sophomore majoring in international relations and political science. “We’re people here. We want to work here, we want to

stay here.”

Nonpartisan members of the Florida Immigration Coalition, a group that aims to provide immigrants with equal rights in the U.S., held a large banner proclaiming “We are Florida,” and individuals held smaller signs reading, “No DREAM Act? No Latino Vote,” “Latinos United 4 DREAM Act” and “Veto Romney, Not DREAM.”

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, has circulated congressional chambers for the past six years and would provide conditional U.S. residency to illegal aliens who arrived in the U.S. as minors, have lived in the country for at least five continuous years and graduate from U.S. high schools.

According to Fox News Latino, Mitt Romney has promised to veto the DREAM Act if elected and

supports erecting a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. According to his website, Rick Santorum also supports a border fence and would increase law enforcement there, while Newt Gingrich has advocated for legalizing law-abiding undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for 25 years or more.

Savanah Goodland, vice president of the College Democrats at USF and a senior majoring in humanities and American studies, said Republicans represent “very anti-immigration rhetoric.”

“There are so many restrictions,” she said. “For students, for example, if you don’t get that visa, you have all these networking connections and you can’t stay.”

Protesters had more than one issue to raise with the Republican candidates.

As the immigration protests continued, across campus another group of protestors readied themselves before the John and Grace Allen Building (ALN). The group, which contained about 60 people at 6:30 p.m., grew wildly in only 30 minutes.

Vuvuzelas and drums sounded as hundreds of students rallied around several speakers and leaders representing Fight Back Florida, SDS, Occupy USF and Occupy Tampa to “oppose the Republican agenda,” said Dustin Ponder, a member of Fight Back Florida and one of the organizers of this protest.

“We believe they’re spearheading the attack on students, workers, immigrants and women,” Ponder said, “and we want to call on a different direction, one that calls for good jobs, health care, affordable education and quality of peace.”

Protesters not only took aim at the Republican candidates, but also at Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

The group branded banners with sayings such as “Money is not speech,” “Pink slip Rick” and “We are one, respect our rights,” while marching from the ALN to the MSC.

Cries of “Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” and “Occupy the RNC,” rang through the air as the group made its way to Theatre 1 and shouted, “The people, united, will never be defeated,” to the beat of the drums.

Several protesters covered their mouths with dollar bills and a couple strolled around campus in makeshift chains made of paper attached to weights with dollar signs. A group of three students from Occupy Tampa wore pig masks and used string puppets to represent the control of corporations on politicians.

Even the protesters had protesters, as a new group of opponents flanked Theatre 1 while carrying anti Democrat signs, including “Impeach Obama” and “Outlaw Abortion.”

These new protesters supported Gainesville pastor Terry Jones, who received media attention last year for burning copies of the Quran, and said their goals are to “balance the budget, take care of the national debt, bring the soldiers home and deport illegals … to save America.”

According to University Police  (UP) spokesman Lt. Chris Daniels, UP made no arrests.