No real conflict yet in Tampa's streets

28

August

The Tampa Bay Times' Jessica Vander Velde:

As the sun set Tuesday, Tampa police Chief Jane Castor grinned.

Another day had passed peacefully, not a single person arrested Tuesday during a protest.

Was it the low turnout? High temperatures? Despite dire predictions, the police and protesters continued an uneasy peace.

Been relatively docile to this point. No flare-ups. Barely any arrests. Nothing even close to a pepper spray kind of moment that would spread on social media and end up practically defining this event in this city. At least not yet. Why? I emailed some of our reporters who've been out there the last couple days with that question.

"Cops have been friendly and quiet for the most part," Kim Wilmath wrote back. "They roll along with the marches on bikes like flies on the wall. If the protesters are angry, it's not at the police here. They've given no fuel to the fire as far as I have seen."

"From what I can tell, the police seem to be letting the protesters do as they please," Shelley Rossetter said. "Want to march in the street? We'll escort you. I think it makes them look good and allows them to control the situation better. Police have been choosing the routes and lead the protesters in the direction they want. The only direct interaction I've witnessed between the police and protesters has been intimate, one-on-one conversations that sound non-threatening. And it seems to be working."

Added Drew Harwell: "Cops have been unceasingly kind, conversational and accepting, and several confronted by protesters haven't taken the bait. Why? Because it works. Lessons from Chicago, maybe, where Melissa Lyttle says the cops worked the same. When a guy pushed a cop bike, the cop readjusted, stood his ground, stayed silent, and waited for him to walk away. Defusing. A few factors to keep in mind: The crazy dearth of protesters, and the crazy buildup of police. The protesters have never outnumbered the cops on marches, not even close. Maybe that's why there's been no conflict, but I'd credit the cops' attitude. They respond to questions, laugh at jokes and take rare slights in stride. Even the Occupy organizers I talked to said the cops were nice. If there were more folks here, they might not have the luxury of being nice. But as of now, they've been handed an easy task."

 

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 9:37am]

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