Tampa Mayor Buckhorn brags he prohibited Occupy Tampa from staying in downtown park listen07/12/12 Janelle Irwin
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During an interview with Politico Tuesday, Mayor Bob Buckhorn took pride in effectively keeping Occupy Tampa from camping in a public park.
“I didn’t let them occupy much of anything which didn’t endear me to them. They had one of my neighbors hang a big sign in his yard who was sympathetic to the Occupiers. He had this big bed sheet hung from a tree right across the street from me…”
Buckhorn continued to describe what happened in front of local musician Ronny Elliot’s house. The sheet was hung from a tree and painted with messages urging the Mayor to support free speech.
“But no, I would not let them occupy anything for a simple reason and that is that the public parks belong to anybody and everybody and I’m not going to let someone take over the public park for whatever purpose. So, we wouldn’t let them occupy a park in downtown Tampa. I think most of the Mayors around the country that did, found themselves having to extract them later on at great political cost and with great drama.”
But Buckhorn is letting someone take over a public park. A contract says the Tampa Bay Host Committee who oversees planning for the Republican convention gets first dibs on use of city Parks. So far they’ve staked claim to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Ashley Drive. Thousands of activists are expected to flood Tampa next month for the convention and many of them will hold demonstrations within public parks. Tampa was awarded $50 million to pay for security during the convention and has used some of that money to buy things like armored vehicles, cameras and tactical gear for officers. Buckhorn said a lot of the effort is to thwart so-called anarchists.
“We anticipate that they will be here – some of the same folks that you saw at the United Nations event in Chicago will be in Tampa. We’ve been monitoring their activities and we’ve studied their tactics and we’ll be ready for them but you can assume they will be there.”
“That could mean broken windows…?”
“We hope not, but we’ll be prepared if they choose to go down that path.”
Buckhorn said in the interview that the city is committed to keeping the peace by dealing with any groups who come to the city to cause trouble.
“We will deal with them. We will deal with them respectfully. We will extract them from that environment and we will be happy to house them at the Orient Road jail.”
Local activists have argued that the city is responding to an unlikely threat. The Mayor even referred to violent protesters as the “1%” during the interview. Many activist groups refer to themselves as the 99%. Activists have also spoken time and time again at city council meetings against the Mayor’s “Clean Zone” which is now being called “Event Zone”. Their concern is that city officials and police are stepping on First Amendment rights.