Occupy Tampa re-takes sidewalk in front of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park listen04/03/12 Janelle Irwin
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In honor of their six month anniversary, Occupy Tampa is returning to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. The group abandoned the sidewalk in front of that park where they had been sleeping each night to camp at Voices of Freedom in West Tampa. Occupy Tampa’s Joe Jay said the move is needed to amp up the group’s presence as this summer’s Republican National Convention draws near.
“With what’s been going on this week with the Mayor’s speech today and then on Thursday the city council is going to deliberate the so-called “clean zone” for the Republican National Convention. We think the time is right for Occupy Tampa to come back downtown; come back into the public image and really make our voices heard and tell them that we’re not going to stand for that. We’re going to be here for the RNC whether he lets us or not.”
According to Kade Kelly, an activist with Occupy Tampa, some members of the movement will stay at Voices of Freedom Park and maintain that encampment as an office and staging ground. But many members of the group will return to the sidewalk along Ashley Drive where they started a 24-hour occupation.
“In a way a lot of Tampa has forgotten that we’re here. We’ve kind of moved to a neighborhood where people travel to less frequently. Returning to downtown definitely shows Tampa that we’ve never left.”
Efforts by Occupy Tampa members to sleep in city parks were, for the most part, unsuccessful. Tampa city council did agree to let members sleep on the sidewalk as long as they followed a certain set of guidelines. But the group still experienced numerous arrests. Many of them were for violating a city code against placing objects on the sidewalk. But Kelly doesn’t see that being a problem this time around.
“22-8 has been deemed un-arrestable. 22-8 was what we had a number of arrests on so I think that will not be an issue anymore. Hopefully we will have a more open line of communication with the police and kind of slow down these arrests.”
The re-occupation of the sidewalk along Ashley Drive began last when night 5 members returned to sleep on the sidewalk. According to Kelly, there wasn’t any trouble between Occupy Tampa members and law enforcement, but the small group was woken up by officers around 6:30 in the morning – same as before. Some members of the group are planning to speak at a Tampa city council meeting on Thursday against an ordinance that would limit when and where they could demonstrate during the RNC. They will also be holding rallies on Friday and Saturday at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.