PoliticusUSA’s Friday Fox Follies writer, Headly Westerfield, reports from the Marco Rubio Campaign Kick-Off in Miami:
I arrived early at Miami’s iconic Freedom Tower to scope out the action before there was any action. Rubio’s choice of locale to make his announcement resonates deeply within South Florida’s Cuban community. Originally built in 1925 as the HQ for The Miami News, in the ’60s federal immigration authorities used the Freedom Tower to process the tens of thousands of Cubans fleeing Castro’s government. Architecturally it’s a beauty, designated a national landmark in 2008.
I get nostalgic at live televised events after working a decade in the CityPulse Newsroom. I watched an instant satellite farm grow in the parking lot next door. Techs connected cameras and microphones to the equipment that would connect this speck of Miami to the rest of the world. Then I watched CNN and Fox “News” Big Foot it over locals by setting up right on the corner — right on the public sidewalk — because it had the best background view. Pedestrians who needed to pass were forced into busy Biscayne Blvd. Watch:
In more bad planning: City of Miami workers left stacks of paving stones within handy reach in case things got out of hand. Fortunately, the crowd was peaceful, but — as it turned out — not exactly quiet. As time ticked down to Rubio’s announcement, the GOP and Tea Party faithful lined up quietly behind barricades, while the media ran around interviewing anyone who appeared young or Cuban or both.
The entire complexion of the event changed, no pun intended, when the Dreamers arrived. They marched right up to the front of the Freedom Tower chanting in 2 languages. Eventually, police directed them across the street to the median, where a few solitary protesters had set up. The protesters made it clear to anyone who would listen that Marco Rubio would be bad news for undocumented immigrants hoping for a clean path to citizenship.
Just when it appeared that everyone knew their place, and the protests would remain peaceful, some 15 activists from NextGenClimate showed up, which threw out chem trails in what had been clear skies.
Police spent the afternoon confining protesters to the narrow median that separates the northbound from the southbound traffic on Biscayne Boulevard. The climate activists took up a position on the sidewalk on the west side of the street. They were immediately swarmed by police, who were immediately swarmed by the media, now bored with the Dreamers and hoping for a new angle.
The argument between Miami’s finest and the climate protesters lasted a good 15 minutes. Leader Aaron Black kept insisting that that the First Amendment gives them the right to protest wherever they wanted. The police claimed the approved Free Speech Zone was on the other side of the street, and everyone else had been issued a permit, which was false. Had it not been for the presence of so many cameras, the police might have resorted to force. As it was their arguments got quite heated.
Meanwhile, the climate activists continued to chant their message and get prime exposure. Whether this was Black’s tactic all along, or he just got tired of arguing with the PoPo, eventually he agreed to take it to the other side of the street. This forced the cops to stop all traffic so the protesters could cross the street safely.
Despite being confined to the Free Speech Zone, just before Marco Rubio began to speak, the Dreamers rushed the overflow area, where a giant video screen was set up. As Rubio tried to fire up his crowd in the 85 degree heat, the Dreamers all but drowned him and his supporters out.
There were arguments, and some slight pushing, between the pro- and anti-Rubio supporters, but police stepped in and settled everybody down before anyone could pick up those pavers.
I realized how much I missed the action when I found myself taking pictures of on-air personalities from various networks, and their set-ups. Back in the day, I worked at so many live events, and not exclusively limited to news. I once spent an entire day pulling camera cables for a Spinal Tap concert (another story for another day).
The thrill of the afternoon, at least for him, were the several short conversations I had with Campaign Carl Cameron, of the Fox “News” Channel, between his live pops. He only knew me by reputation up to then. As he posed for a picture with me, I assured him that his bosses hate me and we had a good laugh.
Then it was over all too fast. Rubio finished his speech. The cameras were packed up; the tripods, tents, and microwave antenna taken down; and the circus packed up for the next town, where it will ramp up all over again many times before November 2016.
Below is a gallery of photos taken at the scene: