Activists think Republican convention security was overkill

09/04/12 Janelle Irwin
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The Tampa Police Department hired thousands of extra officers to help with security for the Republican National Convention last week; some activists who were protesting the event including Occupy Tampa’s Andrew Speirs think it was overkill.

“The police have been showing up with overwhelming force for peaceful protesters mainly using, not so much fear tactics, but just using overwhelming numbers to try to keep us in their sense of calm when we are doing nothing but being peaceful anyways.”

Tampa was given $50 million to pay for the extra law enforcement and other security items like surveillance cameras and so-called less than lethal weapons. They haven’t had to use things like rubber bullets or pepper spray, but one protester was arrested for wearing a bandana. Speirs said some activists like to wear them so they can’t be recognized in photographs.

“A lot of us believe we have the right to remain an anonymous citizen, but in the event zone we do not have that right. The only time we’re allowed to wear our bandanas is on the permitted parade routes and several of us were wearing bandanas when he got arrested but he just so happened to be off on the side of the crowd a little bit and he got picked off.”

Police didn't patrol the Occupy Tampa encampment as much as people there expected. That’s likely because Voice of Freedom Park is outside the city’s established secured area called the Event Zone. But Speirs said a similar camp inside the zone wasn't so lucky.

“They have patrols that constantly go by Romneyville – squads of bike cops, squads of foot cops, their little golf carts – they keep driving by Romneyville just trying either keep an eye on it or keep the people there in check.”

The police patrolling the streets of downtown Tampa were seen on almost every street corner. They wore khaki-colored uniforms intended to look less menacing. During some of the protests this week though, officers wore protective armor over the uniforms. That’s something officials in the Tampa Police Department had said wouldn’t happen unless there was trouble.

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