Tampa City officials and all branches of our local law enforcement worked
with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to try to keep the balance
between allowing folks to exercise their right of expression, with keeping
convention goers safe. Tampa welcomed and managed over 100,000 guests.
The convention was designated a National Special Security Event (NSSE)
by the Department of Homeland Security, which means the Secret Service
was actually in charge of overall security in Tampa.
The budget for the event was $50 million dollars, and while one could imagine
a better use of some of the funds, other than to display ten-speed bicycles
for cops, all-terrain vehicles and riot gear, it seems that all involved
are calling the event a success for our city.
In addition to Mayor Buckhorn and Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor calling
the event a success, protestors are also saying that despite low turnout,
they were successful in getting their message out. Many, if not all of
the protestors moved on to Charlotte, North Carolina for the Democratic
National Convention held this week from September 4 through 6. The fundamental
right to speak and be heard should be important to all of us, regardless
of whether you are a registered Democrat, Independent, or self-proclaimed
“Anarchist.” The largest march only had about 1,000 participants,
but they hoped their voices were heard just the same as if the group had
been larger. Hopefully, the protestors will similarly be permitted at
the DNC in Charlotte to get their message out – no matter the content.
Interestingly, Tampa Police handed out a guide with tips for protestors
during the RNC. The guide reportedly had not only official parade routes
and designated protest areas, but information about where to use the restroom,
get water and first aid. The week in Tampa concluded with little arrests
and mostly peaceful protests. Perhaps it was because of Tropical Storm
Isaac, perhaps it was because of the massive law enforcement presence,
or maybe it was just the heat and humidity, but something kept large volumes
of people from coming to Tampa –a ratio of 4-to-1 law enforcement to
civilians might just have done the trick.