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Activists in downtown Tampa protest Donald Trump’s inauguration

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

While the major Tampa Bay area protest against the inauguration of Donald Trump is scheduled to take place on Saturday in St. Petersburg, approximately three dozen activists gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown Tampa on Friday night to express their dissent about the most powerful man in the free world.

The sentiment among some of those gathered wasn’t anger, but ambivalence. While fear felt for the most vulnerable in society was expressed by several people interviewed, there also was excitement about the possibility of how a newly formed opposition movement could manifest itself in the months and years ahead. At least that was the feeling of Tampa resident Wendy Babcox, who said she was felt “conflicted.”

“On the one hand, I feel energized because I feel that are only a few people right here now, but right now around the country there are people organizing in ways that they hasn’t done for, I don’t know, maybe 30 years or so?” she said. “And I think we need to do that. We needed to do that, anyway,” agreeing with the notion that progressives have become too complacent in the Obama years.

Tampa resident Heather Henry is Muslim and wears a hijab. She says she worries less about what Donald Trump might do in office that could be deleterious to her own freedom, and is more concerned about the impact of his electoral success with his more xenophobic supporters.

“People approached me in a very negative way today,” she recalled. “People feel more emboldened, because they see that their opinions have been validated.”

While protests will dominate this weekend across the country, the question some activists are already posing is: What’s next?

“The first thing we do is to be in solidarity with the people who are also fearful, ” said Jason Lazarus.“This is the first response. I’m here. I’m visible. It’s about how we galvanize our energy to become better citizens over the next four years.”

A man who only wanted to be identified as “Glen” said it was all about awareness. Not just for the general population, but for those in power.

“Donald Trump has to know that we’re watching him all the time, that he is responsible to us and that we’re going to keep him responsible to us,” he said. Assuming that Trump’s actions in officer will be viewed as so egregious to the norms of the more of the nation, he predicted Democrats will rally in the 2018 congressional elections.

Wearing a Bernie Sanders t-shirt and acknowledging that the Vermont socialist was his candidate of choice, Glen is the embodiment of how divided the Democratic party was when it came to their candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. His face showed disgust upon the mentioning of her name, instead telling me he proudly supported Green Party candidate Jill Stein in November.

Jason Lazarus mused that if Clinton had selected Sanders or Elizabeth Warren as her running mate last summer, the combination of a centrist and more liberal Democrat on the ticket could have been the winning ticket. “That would have been a very powerful signal that she would acknowledge and open up the platform to a lot of people,” he’ said, calling her choice of Tim Kaine to being “safe and uninspired.”

Babcox espoused another sentiment that others interviewed agreed with.

“I don’ think any of us know how he’s going to do anything,” she said. “Which is very worrying. Not just for us, but for people around the world.”

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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