Tampa Police tell Occupy protesters to get rid of tarps but they're allowed for bedding
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10/18/11 Seán Kinane
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photo by Seán Kinane

On Monday night Tampa Police told Occupy Tampa protesters that they had to get rid of tarps at their week-long encampment along the sidewalk of N. Ashley Drive. Demonstrators had put the tarps up to protect themselves and their bedding ahead of rainstorms expected this week.

After discussions between the two groups, the police left and Occupy Tampa continued with the ninth night in a row of occupying the space adjacent to Curtis Hixon Park. The protesters took down the tarps but are using them as bedding.

This is Stephanie Cannon from Occupy Tampa on their discussion with Tampa Police:

“The police came up and it looked to me like they were more interested in what was going on in Curtis Hixon Park. But we felt they might be coming toward us so we got our legal observers with our cameras out. There was some misunderstanding as to whether tarps were considered bedding or not. I believe that the police officers acting as anyone else would, became defensive when some people started surrounding them.

"Everybody kind of got tense and I went over there and I talked to the woman who was obviously in charge. I had a real conversation with her, person to person. She works night shifts, she said she’s been working night shifts for nine years and she loves it. I was just like; I want to know why you wouldn’t consider tarp? It was a nice conversation. When we speak to people with respect, people open up. She said that the people were not understanding but she read the sheet and that should have been enough. Then when I asked a little bit further she said that tarps are allowed as sleeping material when their only used as sleeping material. I understand that as we need to keep our park nice. We are trying; we really do believe that we’re keeping our park nice. But sometimes you stop thinking about things because you get complacent and you get used to stuff.

"So then we had out our tarps getting ready for the rain because we need to be prepared and they saw that as making our park look trashy. You can see both sides of the picture. So they’re going to allow us to have our tarps when we need them but before that conversation it was pretty much “No, you can’t have them”. I believe that when we held a general assembly, and everyone seemed to be in agreement, that we do need to treat everybody with respect and with both sides on edge…we’re all cool now.”

The rains are expecting to be coming so what do you see happening next? Do you think when the rains come, the tarps will come out and you’ll have to go through this all again?

“I think each shift is probably independent from each other so it’s very possible. But what we are going to do in the future is we’re going to have people who know how to talk to other people. Go up and speak to other 99% people. They’ll basically say “Hi, how’s it going? We need this, are you okay with this? This is what we’re going to do and we’re going to work with you and you’re going to work with us.” That’s what happened here today.”

Here are more photos from Monday night.

Interview with Stephanie Cannon from Occupy Tampa on their discussion with Tampa Police:

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