Tampa denies request from occupiers for right to assemble with tents listen11/30/11 Janelle Irwin
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On Tuesday Tampa officials denied a request by Occupy Tampa protesters to be allowed tents, tables and other items within a park. The protesters have been sleeping on the sidewalk in front of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park for more than 7 weeks now.
On Tuesday about a dozen Occupy Tampa members hand delivered a petition with 600 signatures they say is a formal request to accommodate their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. Mayor Bob Buckhorn was not in when the group arrived, but Kade Kelly delivered the petition to a staff member without incident. Currently, Tampa police officers are only allowing the group to use one table and sleeping bags during limited times.
â€œWe would like that to be changed. That is something we think is detrimental to our first amendment right since we are a 24-hour occupation protest.â€
The addition of more tables would allow occupiers to have more accessible and sanitary food and medical supplies within their camp. Kelly said if the request is not granted they will start using tents on Thursday even though that could mean more arrests.
â€œWe are fighting for our rights. The government is not happy with us and not being 100% cooperative, so we do what we must.â€
But Buckhorn's chief of staff Santiago Corrada said no further accommodations will be made. Protesters who disobey city ordinances, for example by having tents in a public park, will be arrested. He didnâ€™t say whether or not force would be used. Corrada added the protesters have already been accommodated.
â€œI believe that will continue. Absolutely, within the time frames established. And theyâ€™ve had a good working relationship with our police department knowing what the rules are and the rules have been consistent from day one. And we believe they have to be in order to avoid some of the issues that are being encountered in many cities across the country.â€
The petition also requested Mayor Buckhornâ€™s presence at the groupâ€™s general assembly meeting on Thursday, the day they plan to occupy a park. Corrada said the Mayor will be unable to accept that invitation because he will be attending a meeting at Harvard University.