Occupy Tampa says it won't protest the Republican Convention from inside the "Event Zone" listen05/04/12 Janelle Irwin
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Occupy Tampa will not be protesting inside the proposed Event Zone for the Republican National Convention in August. During their general assembly last night the group decided to explore other demonstration options.
Tampa city council passed the first reading of an ordinance yesterday that would establish a restricted area in downtown Tampa for the week of the Republican National Convention. Members of Occupy Tampa have spoken out at every city council meeting that dealt with what was formerly known as the “Clean Zone”. They spoke against it by the dozens, saying it was an infringement of their First Amendment rights. Occupy Tampa member Nick Windholz said the group is now planning to stay away from downtown because there are too many other groups that could leave Occupiers in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“The Coalition of the March on RNC has a whole bunch of different organizations and if anything goes wrong with those organizations, we don’t want to be lumped in as a whole with those organizations because we don’t necessarily support all of those organizations. We were just joining in on the march to the RNC.”
So, Occupy Tampa’s Robert Pelchat said the group will plan protests somewhere else about things like:
“The vast inequalities that exist in our society, regardless of what socio-economic class you live in you still get the same pressures no matter what. So, probably a lot of demonstrations having to do with the economic inequality and the foreclosure process; puppet parade.”
And that is:
“there’s a large amount of puppet organizations, like puppet theater organizations that exist within this awesome state and also throughout our awesome country that are going to be coming down here. So, lots of puppets, like giant street theater kinds of things.”
They made the decision, in part, in opposition of the proposed Event Zone. It limits where and for how much time they can march and prohibits numerous items from being brought into the area. After city council members passed the measure by a vote of 5 to 2 they had a party in front of city hall to bid farewell to the Bill of Rights along with the First Amendment. But that’s not the only reason the group is backing off. Pelchat said some recent run-ins with police officers gave them some inside information.
“We recently had two individuals from our group arrested due to chalking in which we got a little bit of information that they’re keeping the jail at a skeleton population; they’re keeping it as empty as possible for the expected 400 a day arrests for the RNC.”
A Facebook thread about their announcement shows a long list of people who aren’t happy about the decision. The statements show that supporters of the Occupy movement are fearful that the local group won’t directly protest the convention they have so loudly opposed. Windholz said that’s not the case.
“So now we’re taking a little step back and planning other direct actions around the city without being necessarily in the “Clean Zone” and in the mess if anything bad does happen because we know there is going to be chaos. There is going to be police beating people up just like every RNC, DNC for the past probably ten years. We know that it’s going to be chaos and we want to be more productive than just being protesting in the Clean Zone.”
Windholz would not say specifically what they are planning to do instead. Demonstrations in front of delegates’ hotels are one option. The routes to and from the convention another. But Windholz said there will be plenty going on all over the Bay area during the week of the convention.
“There’s a lot of secret actions planned that we can’t really let the public know because every action we do plan, the cops are already there waiting for us even before we get there. So, we have to keep things a secret.”
Windholz said just because the general assembly decision was to stay out of the Clean Zone, that doesn’t mean individual members won’t be there anyway. Representatives from Occupy the RNC and the Coalition to March on the RNC did not respond to interview requests by deadline.