Occupy Tampa members camp overnight at Kiley Garden
After two consecutive nights of arrests, Occupy Tampa has completed their first arrest-free overnight occupation of Kiley Garden in downtown Tampa. Four people slept on blankets on the grass from 2 until 6:30 this morning.
Three Tampa Police woke up protesters Becky Rubright, Tim Sommers, Nick Windholz, and Derek English inside Kiley Garden and said they could not sleep or lie down in the park. Tim Sommers said that he wouldn’t sleep any longer, but that he would not get up.
Becky Rubright was hesitant to declare it a victory since there were only four protesters occupying the Kiley Garden.
Last night was the 30th night that protesters have continuously occupied a sidewalk just north of Kiley Garden, along Curtis Hixon Park. This is also the second time Occupy Tampa members have taken a public park overnight; two-and-a-half weeks ago more than a dozen people slept over inside Curtis Hixon Park for a night. Rubright said that today could mark a precedent for permission to occupy a park.
After last night’s General Assembly, a few people raised concerns about Occupy Tampa’s strategy to continue risking arrest. They accused protesters on the ground of straying from their message of promoting more economic equality. But Tim Sommers said their first priority is to assert the right to freely speak and assemble.
During the four arrests Sunday morning, protesters recited the First Amendment. And early yesterday Katie Christofilis and two others were arrested as they sat on the ground with an American flag and a copy of the Constitution. She said it was in solidarity with Seth Collins, who initially stood up to law enforcement all on his own.
Protesters have been allowed to sleep at night on the sidewalk outside Curtis Hixon Park because the city code is vague. But as some members of Occupy Tampa continue to sleep in public parks, they risk violating section 16-39, which clearly prohibits sleeping in parks. By 6:45 this morning, Nick Windholz and Derek English said that they intend to continue sleeping, in protest of the police orders.
Video footage of police
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