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tampa_security.jpg

It’s apparently quite a show of force in Tampa during this week’s Republican National Convention. Nothing can put a good scare into a city like the specter of a group of people holding different opinions.

Apparently, officials there point to Saint Paul in 2008 as the inspiration for this year’s buildup of force against would-be demonstrators (most stayed home), according to the Associated Press.


City officials maintain the massive show of force _ more than 3,000 officers _ is needed to ward off possibly violent protests, pointing to several clashes with police at the 2008 Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Civil liberties advocates have worried about the amping up of security at political events, where dissenters are kept in so-called “protest zones,” fenced enclosures often far from the actual event. In Tampa, the protesters and city-sanctioned parade routes are blocks away from the RNC and the nearby media center. The installation of surveillance cameras on public streets (a few dozen are in place in Tampa) also give some free speech advocates pause.

Ron Krotoszynski, a professor of law at the University of Alabama, said that security at conventions has grown since 1988, when more than 300 anti-abortion protesters were arrested after blocking clinics during the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta that year. Since 9/11, “measures have become even more draconian,” he said. “Organized dissent has been banished from downtown areas.”

It’s like going back in time. The people in Saint Paul had the same concerns. Those security cameras? We got them too. They were supposed to be temporary. They’re still there.

And, also like 2008, Tampa is finding another truism: Political conventions are bad for businesses. Tampa, thanks to the hurricane and the authorities, is deserted.

Saint Paul could have provided a lesson about that to Tampa, too. But from the sound of things, the businesses bought the “it’ll be great for business” line.

Jeff Morzella had hoped the convention would double business, but on Monday, only 75 customers ate in his restaurant compared to 400 patrons on a typical day.

“This has been a ghost town,” Morzella said Tuesday morning, standing outside his restaurant named FRESH. Streets surrounding the block were barricaded. The biggest source of downtown traffic for the past few days has been police officers on bicycles, but they have been eating at meal stations catered by outsiders, not local restaurants, Morzella said.

FRESH generally garners up to $20,000 in weekly revenue but as of Tuesday had only taken in $800.

“More money out of pocket. No money coming in,” said Morzella, whose restaurant serves soups, salads and paninis. It’s on a row of restaurants just a few blocks from the Tampa Bay Times Forum where delegates are convening. “I would need to triple business between now and the end of the convention to make up for what I’ve lost already.”

“I’ve been on this street for 31 years and this is the worst I have ever seen,” said Marty Greenwald, who runs a hot dog business and appears to be losing his shirt.

A week or so from now, officials in the city will issue a press release trumping people’s lying eyes and proving that the convention made money for the region.

It’s like old times.

  • Jamie

    Tampa police and other city officials are probably proud of this photo, but I think it’s horrendous. It looks more like what you’d expect in Russia or some other repressive place. The way protesters have been treated in recent years is very disturbing. Police in riot gear, putting peaceful people in pens and macing them just because they exist. And there apparently is nothing we can do about it. Victims of these tactics sue the cities and police departments but it keeps on happening anyway.

  • Emil Herrera

    I agree with Jamie. It does look like something out of Russia. And i understand that there is a bill in congress to further abridge our first amendment rights to free speech. The gestapo like image is also ironic with the Republicans constant Flag waving and talk of returning to American values. Further irony with the talk of supporting small business you can see in Tampa and here in St Paul how little their dollars are spent there. I work at the Mall of America and Republicans told me they were discouraged and warned not to go there. the result very little business when the convention was here.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Police and thieves in the streets

    Scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition

    Police and thieves in the street

    Fighting the nation with their guns and ammunition

    – Junior Murvin

  • Duke Powell

    One of these days I’m going to write about my experiences as a member of the Mobile Field Forces at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

    For those of you who don’t know what Mobile Field Forces are, just look at the picture above. I was dressed just like that and still have the equipment.

    For the record, I’ll say this: The police actions in St. Paul during the 2008 RNC were appropriate given the situation and a whole lot of mayhem was prevented due to the outstanding performance of our Public Safety Officials.

    BTW, I was within 10 feet of Amy Goodman when she was arrested. I approved of it then…. and now.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Duke – That’s really cool that you got to keep your robocop stuff.

    But the fact that you approve of a blatant violation of the First Amendment sadly says a lot more about you then you said in justifying the incident.

    Or perhaps when you wear that cool costume you don’t have to justify anything.

  • Duke Powell

    Yep, Jim – the costume is cool. My daughter wore it to a Halloween Party a couple of years ago and was the hit of the gathering.

    As for my approval of a “blatant violation of the First Amendment,” it was nothing of the sort. In my opinion, as an eyewitness to the event, Goodman’s arrest was the correct thing to do.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Duke, you already stated that in your opinion, the arrest was “the correct thing to do.”

    Is there any reasoning behind your thinking, or is it one of those “just because” things?

    (Personal insults removed)

  • Chris N.

    Duke,

    You should write about your experiences. Sooner rather than later. Ask Bob to post it or link to it, if you post on a blog or whatever.

    When I see things like the lineup of police in riot gear in Tampa, I have a hard time thinking that it’s an appropriate response to a valid threat. Instead I worry that we’re just letting valid public discourse in the form of protest (from both political sides) be squelched in the name of security.

    I worry that the police start seeing protesters not as citizens being engaged in politics, but as potential criminals and threats. I worry that more moderate people look at the riot police and say “Oh, well, I’m not dealing with that, so I’m staying home!”…and most of who’s left on the protesters’ side are the radicals.

    Really it would be great to hear from someone who has been there, so I can start trying to determine whether these sorts of fears are justified.

  • Duke Powell

    Jim, I’ll give you the short version of what happened on Jackson St as it concerns Amy Goodman.

    Police had arrested between 40-50 individuals with an initial charge of felony riot. During the processing stage of the arrests, a woman with a camaraman came inside the police line – not just inside it, mind you, but as much as 40 yards.

    She was loudly shouting that a member of her staff had been arrested and she wanted to remove her from the scene. Police refused to allow her access to the staffer.

    Over the course of many minutes, perhaps as many as 10, Goodman refused (and I am not a cop) dozens of what I would consider lawful orders to move back to the police line.

    LOUDLY refused.

    Frankly, the police had no choice in my opinion.

    I am also of the opinion that she wanted to be arrested.

  • Duke Powell

    Chris N,

    Wish I had the time to respond to your comments this morning, but I have to get to work.

  • Bob Collins

    // Ask Bob to post it or link to it, if you post on a blog or whatever.

    I’ll post it. Extra points if it comes with a picture.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Duke – Thanks for the further information.

    Makes it easier to engage in civil discourse, as opposed to both sides firing pot shots generated by more heat than light.