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What Do Protesters Do After Dark?

After a long day of marching and chanting, most protesters in the tent camp known as Romneyville are trying to get some sleep.

"We have the constant helicopter overhead to give us the soothing white noise to sleep to," said one activist who asked not to be named.

He had just climbed down from the billboard behind the camp, where he hung a banner to overlook the nearby interstate entrance. The banner is a white bed sheet with water bottles tied to the bottom to weigh it down.

It read "GOP 1% GO HOME."

"It gets the point across," said the activist. "They need to know that we don't want them here."

Though hanging the banner wasn't an easy task.

"To this day I hate going high up," he said. "I'm terrified of heights. I've still got the shakes from being up there. It's one thing being in a tall building, it's another being out in the open."

Even at night, some protesters can’t help but stay out in the open. In Ybor City, a few dozen protesters held what they called a “Roving Radical Dance Party.”

"Dance for peace," shouted one protester. "Dance for anarchy!"

It was sort of a hybrid demonstration. Hardcore activists gathered around a boom box and a megaphone and danced through the streets . For Josh Kauppila, it was as much about relaxing as it was about being heard.

"You can just let it out," said Kauppila. "It's a release, it's engaging that primal sense that we've seem to have forgotten in our cubicles and our commutes. You just gotta open up."

Some of them moved like snakes in water, flowing down Seventh Avenue.  Others banged their heads and raised their fists. 

During the day, protesters march in the secure zone, where they’re separated from the convention by miles of fence and nearly 4,000 police officers. But at night, in Ybor City, the fences are gone and the bars are filled with convention-goers. It’s the first time the two groups come face to face. 

"We’re very close to them," shouted one protester over the commotion. "They are partying right now and we are watching them as they film us. They hear our message loud and clear."

There’s some jeering from the bystanders – shouts of “get a job” and things like that – but it’s mostly in good fun. In a way, both groups entertain each other.

But dancing or not, protesters can’t be on the move all the time. So the next night I met up with a self-described anarchist named Serendipity to see what she and other protesters do in their downtime. 

"During a day that I've been marching all day and have marched more than six miles or something like that, I most definitely like to end it at a bar," said Serendipity.

Just a block away from hobnobbing convention-goers, about a dozen anarchists gathered in G Bar, a gay bar offering free drinks and free entry.  It’s a block of black shirts and black jeans in an otherwise colorful room.

"It's hilarious," said Serendipity, pointing to one end of the bar. "All the protesters are on this side and all the locals are on that side."

Serendipity says it’s nice to be in a place where you’re not performing and not being watched.

"When all the activists get together for something like this, there's no cops around, there's no Big Brother pending over us, nobody has their Livestream out," said Serendipity. "It's much more, 'You're a person, and I'm a person, and let's get to know each other again.' "

It’s a time to relax … and recharge, so they can get up tomorrow and do it again.

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