Nearly 100 people showed up for a town hall meeting with former Florida governor and current US Congressman Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) in the Gulfport Casino Ballroom on May 26. The event, billed as a Women’s March Gulfport Meet-up, also included representatives from the Gulfport chapter of the ACLU, Gulfport Women, Gulfport Resist and the Women’s March St. Petersburg in attendance. According to Ward 3 Gulfport City Councilmember Yolanda Roman, Crist’s visit to Gulfport was the result of a Women’s March on Washington debriefing meeting earlier this year attended by over 70 Gulfport residents, mostly women, who participated in one of the many marches on January 21.
“I am very pleased that Congressmen Crist has agreed to be part of the movement taking place right here in Gulfport,” said Roman.
Roman, who spearheaded the event, fired up the crowd before introducing Crist.
“There was a big event on January 21 in a little city called Washington, D.C., in solidarity with women around the world,” Roman began. “The Women’s March is a people’s march. We, the people, have a voice to impact policies not just today but into the future. We will not let emerging policies go unchallenged, and definitely not without hearing our voice.”
Crist was greeted with cheers and applause and people holding up signs that read “No Human Being is Illegal” and “Keep Gulfport a Welcoming City.” He began his speech by saying he grew up the only son in a household with three sisters and his mother, so women’s issues have always been a priority. He was preaching mostly to the choir, as a show of hands indicated that the majority of the audience was comprised of Democrats. Yet one of Crist’s key messages was the importance of civility and working together.
“I want to give a little hope and faith,” said Crist. “There is a lot of resistance going on in our communities and in Congress. We’re all Americans first and need to work together for the betterment of the country.”
Crist noted that he was heartened by the level of political engagement he has seen and stressed the importance of voting in the special elections, particularly in the 2018 mid-term election.
“The election in 2018 is extremely important. It’s a fight for the future of our country. I’ve never seen so many people involved in politics in my lifetime as they are now,” he said.
In addition to women’s issues, Crist touched on topics such as the environment, education, medical marijuana, civil rights, healthcare and immigration before taking questions from the audience.
Those attending the event had strong reasons for being there.
“Women’s issues are everyone’s issues,” said Margie Davis. “Now more than ever we need to be vocal, to speak up and be heard. Charlie Crist is on my side and I want him to continue to speak up for me and other women.”
April Thanos, president of the Gulfport Democrats, concurred. “To me, the more open forums like this we can have, the better. The result is that our representatives will know what we want and what is important to constituents. Now that Charlie Crist has heard from constituents he can go back and argue our case.”