Democratic protestors set up camp at SRLC

To counter the Republican presence in Memphis this weekend, local Democrats have set up a moving billboard that criticizes them on the big ports controversy in Washington this week and - on the street, outside the conference - they're doing everything they can to make their presence known.

"You see it? Lady Liberty wearing a burka?" asked a heavily costumed Kelly Jacobs, who drove up from Hernando to make a point outside the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.

She's dressed as the Statue of Liberty and is wearing a burka over her head.

"I'm here today to protest their den of vipery. They're selling America to China and the Arabs. We're $8.2 trillion in debt. I've got that on one foot. $8.2 trillion in debt. And we have 2,305 dead from Iraq," she says.

Jacobs wasn't alone.

Shelby County Democrats used a mobile billboard to criticize the president and Republicans over the move to sell six U-S ports to Dubai Ports World.

That political fight that has since resolved itself now that DB World announced it will let an American company take over, but for critics, it is still fodder for debate.

"The Republicans have shown us that security and safety is not that important," said Democrat Gail Mathis.

"Democrats are not yet willing to put their guard down. But apparently the Republicans are," said Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Bob Tuke.

This convention offers easy targets, as major political figures descend on the bluff city, gearing up for a Saturday straw poll to pick a 2008 presidential nominee.

"We've got these people that say they are running for president and I want to know where their leadership is," said Tuke.

He said Republicans are failing on security - at home and overseas - while the national debt grows and he is going to make sure that criticism is heard loud and clear in Memphis this weekend.

Democrats outside the Peabody today also criticized the war in Iraq and the administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina recovery on the Gulf Coast.