Buckhorn to RNC protesters who might be pepper-sprayed by police: "leave the area"

03/30/12 Seán Kinane
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This week Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced a proposal for a temporary ordinance during the week of the Republican National Convention in August. Yesterday we played the first half of our interview with the Mayor. Buckhorn proposes what the city is calling a "Clean Zone" that covers about six square miles near downtown Tampa. Inside that Clean Zone will be an “official Parade Route” and a free-speech zone, called a “Public Viewing Area.” But Mayor Buckhorn says their locations have not yet been determined.

Last July, WMNF spoke with Mark Hamlin, Assistant Chief of Police with the Tampa Police Department. He said police are supposed to prepare for the worst when thousands of people are expected to descend upon the city.

“We are prepared for a civil unrest situation. We trained for that, we have equipment for that, we have certain weapons for that, and we have chemicals for that.”

This week, when asked why protesters in the Clean Zone would be prohibited from wearing gas masks, despite the threat of the use of chemicals by police, Buckhorn responded,

“[Laughs] Well, if they’re engaged in illegal behavior, or behavior that threatens our police officers or law enforcement personnel, and they are wearing things that will prevent crowds from being dispersed, no. There’s no need to have a gas mask unless you’re intent on causing problems.”

But we’ve seen at previous Democratic and Republican Conventions where people that weren’t being disruptive were also affected by various chemicals.

“Perhaps then the simple solution is, leave the area. Or police your own organization to make sure that those folks that would cause harm to police officers and would disrupt the event and would cause harm to legitimate protesters are not allowed to infiltrate your protest.”

There’s a technique that police sometimes use that’s become known as “kettling” and that’s when protesters who want to leave an area are not allowed to – they’re physically prohibited from leaving an area by police. How does that jibe with what you just said?

“Well, I’m not an expert on kettling. I’m going to leave that to police officers. But I can tell you that gas masks will be prohibited from the Clean Zone.”

According to former Tampa City Council member John Dingfelder, there are civil rights concerns with what Buckhorn is proposing. Dingfelder is now with the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

City Council will hear the proposal for the first time next Thursday.

Tampa 20120328_RNCTemporaryOrdinance: WMNF News

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