By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
TAMPA - The latest casualty of the hurricane that never hit the Republican National Convention was the protest that took place Monday just blocks from the delayed event.
What was planned as a 5,000-strong march on the convention attracted only a few hundred people from as many as 70 affiliated protest groups.
And they were marching to an abandoned convention site - Monday's main events were canceled due to storm concerns.
"If the hurricane weren't an issue, I believe there would have been more than (5,000)," said Robbey Hayes, 21, a member of Students for a Democratic Society and a student at the University of Florida.
The protest had five goals - good jobs, health care, affordable education, peace and equality. The organizing groups included labor unions, Students for a Democratic Society, Veterans for Peace, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Occupy Wall Street and Code Pink.
Florida labor organizer Jose Soto said 16 buses of protesters canceled from New York, Miami and the Florida Panhandle. He said the bus companies didn't want their equipment and drivers heading toward a possible storm.
"It's a calamity, but all the people here are delegates for those who can't be here," said Soto, of the University of Florida's Graduate Assistants United local.
Protest organizer Jared Hamil urged those in the sparse crowd to "take the streets" before they began marching to the convention site.
"Rain and wind - people still came to show that we can demand a better future," Hamil said. "No more to their agenda of poverty, war and hate."
As they marched, the protesters chanted: "Hey hey, ho ho, the GOP has got to go."
Those demonstrators vented solely against the Republicans; others blamed both parties for joblessness, poverty and repression.
"Both parties don't give a damn about us," said Cheri Honkala, founder of the Poor People's Economic and Human Rights Campaign.
The peaceful demonstration was nothing like the protest movement of the 1960s and '70s, when tens of thousands rebelled against the Vietnam War and fought for civil rights.
Instead, it was a loose coalition of women, students, immigrants, veterans, union organizers and others that gathered to protest Mitt Romney as the candidate of the wealthiest 1%.
Hundreds of police officers and heavily armed members of the Florida National Guard patrolled the streets of downtown Tampa. The protesters were required to conduct their rallies and parades in designated areas and along specified routes.
"They've militarized Tampa. The chilling effect has succeeded," said Cara Jennings, a voter outreach organizer from Palm Beach County.