Flower introduces his fellow puppets of The Autonomous Playhouse to the Civic Media Center, kicking off Friday’s 12-hour Rally Against the RNC.

“U-G-L-Y. Corporate scum, you cheat, you lie!” the eight shouted.

Followed by twirls, claps, jumps and ass smackin’, the Gainesville May Day Radical Cheerleaders performed in the Civic Media Center’s courtyard Friday as part of the Rally Against the Republican National Convention (RNC).

The rally kicked off at noon and howled on until midnight with workshops, speakers, live music, and puppet shows.

The Gainesville Activist Coalition organized the rally to excite the city about the 2012 RNC and facilitate planning for groups heading down to Tampa to participate in the nationally organized march. Organizations such as Veterans for Peace, Students for a Democratic Society, Fight Back Florida and 70 others nationwide endorse the march, demanding jobs, affordable and quality healthcare and education, and protesting war.

The march is intended to be a peaceful one, but in case any trouble arises, which organizers say would likely be incited by the police, protesters and participants want to make sure they have enough medical supplies and aid to handle such situations.

The expected 5,000 people marching will have come in from states as far as Washington, but will also be composed largely of local Floridians. Marchers from Gainesville will have the local RNC Solidarity Network to turn to for support from both their base in Tampa and back home.

“If we’re pumping people up we need to be here to help, too,” Emily Sparr said.

Emily is one of the members of the Gainesville Activist Coalition.  The group decided to hold the rally when they heard the famous David Rovics was coming through Gainesville, en route to March on the RNC himself.

The rally kicked off with lunch and a performance by The Autonomous Playhouse, a troupe of radical puppeteers who are also on their way to Tampa. The group started in Miami on May Day, 2010 and are already helping start a sister troupe in Israel.

Their googly eyes and felt-wrapped puppets look silly, but they’ve traveled all around Florida, parts of the U.S. (as far as New Mexico) and way over to Ireland delivering serious messages about social and environmental justice. Their first skit of the rally was on genetically modified foods and went something like this. Instead of waving around signs, flags and banners, the Autonomous Playhouse focuses on educating by means of entertaining. The message sticks better, Jillian Pim, one of the troupe’s puppeteers, explained.

The rally wasn’t catered exclusively to the convention-bound bunch though. Emily wanted the entire community to have the opportunity to be involved with the RNC even if they couldn’t make it down to Tampa. But for those who are Tampa-bound, best sign up with the Gainesville’s RNC Solidarity Network. And if you’re still figuring out rides, The Coalition to March on the RNC will be carpooling to Tampa Monday morning, meeting at Target Copy on University Ave. at 6:00 A.M. and returning that evening.

Michela Martinazzi, a local coordinator for The Coalition to March on the RNC carpool, explained that the rally and the RNC march are organized to be family friendly.

“We’re not [at the march] to bash. We want real Americans to be there — not the T.V. Americans, not the 1 Percent — real Americans,” she said.

Gainesville May Day Radical Cheerleaders left their pompoms at home and brought their sass to rally up the crowd at the Civic Media Center.