|As delegate buses roll through Tampa on the first day of the Republican National Convention, Green Party vice presidential candidate Cheri Honkala and supporters will be marching the streets to raise awareness for their campaign and the antipoverty movement.
“We are the new and unsettling force that Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of,” Honkala said. “The people in this country of all colors — urban and rural — are a sleeping giant, and they’re beginning to wake up.”
Honkala, founder and coordinator of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, met with the media Friday outside of Romneyville to discuss the Green Party’s plans for the week of the RNC.
The Rev. Gregory Lockett, a Romneyville organizer, said he expects its population to rise as high as 500 people during the convention. The temporary encampment now has about 20 tents at the Army-Navy Surplus Store on Tampa Street.
Honkala, a once-homeless mother who said she’s been arrested more than 200 times for civil disobedience, never expected to be chosen as a vice presidential candidate. But she said she is eager to take on important issues ignored by candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. They, she said, are too out of touch with the American people.
“People need to stand up and take our country back,” she said. “We need to talk about all of the folks they’re trying to make invisible in this campaign.”
Honkala, who will be staying in Romneyville during part of her time in Tampa, said she feels a responsibility for the millions of people ignored by the other presidential campaigns. And, even though the group doesn’t have a permit for their march, she hopes the city of Tampa will recognize their rights to free speech and assembly, she said.
“The party is growing because people are tired,” Honkala said. “And we will crush the people, the system that has been killing us. And we will do this with love.”
The party will have events throughout the week, including a gathering of families who have lost homes to foreclosure. Most of all, Honkala said, she hopes to bring attention to the power of the movement and ideals long ignored by other parties.
“Historically, when a social movement links with independent politics and a political movement, that’s when you can really change things,” she said. “We’re going to occupy the ballot.”