Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa police prepare for anarchist attacks at Republican National Convention

Protesters push a trash can into the street outside the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Getty Images (2008)

Protesters push a trash can into the street outside the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

TAMPA — Up to 15,000 protesters are expected to descend on Tampa next summer for the Republican National Convention. Many will wave signs and march peacefully.

Then there are the anarchists.

Authorities are preparing for hundreds of well-organized lawbreakers whose sole intent will be to shut down the convention.

If it's anything like the last Republican convention, in St. Paul, Minn., they'll come with gas masks, slingshots and bolt cutters. They'll throw rocks, block intersections and break windows. They'll use water guns to spray urine at police.

Discard the stereotypes of disorganized punks running amok. In St. Paul, authorities found an anarchist command center downtown with state-of-the-art communications equipment.

"They'll assault law enforcement officers, and they'll attack businesses that represent capitalism,'' said Marc Hamlin, an assistant Tampa police chief.

To Hamlin, "anarchist" is just a word. He divides protesters into two categories: those who follow the law and those who don't.

Protecting the peaceful is important, he said. Police want to encourage the exercise of First Amendment rights and avoid the bad publicity of unwarranted arrests. But if they're up against hundreds whose goal is to shut down the convention, targeted arrests will be necessary, he said.

So will collaboration with other law enforcement agencies and lots of planning, said Mary Vukelich, who was part of a commission that reviewed law enforcement actions leading up to and during the 2008 Republican convention.

"And being prepared for the unknown," she said. "You just don't know what's going to happen."

In St. Paul, law enforcement agencies started planning months in advance. They held about 200 community meetings and infiltrated an anarchist group.

Their investigation led them to three Minneapolis homes, where they seized bombs, machetes, fireworks, knives, slingshots and marbles.

They knew that the first day of the convention — Sept. 1, 2008 — would likely bring the most violence. But they were still surprised by the "organization, tenacity and aggressiveness" of the anarchists.

They blocked intersections, threw rocks at police, and rocked the cars of employees trying to get to work.

Some said St. Paul looked like a police state. But the law enforcement response was fairly ineffective at first, according to the review commission's report.

It was a game of "cat and mouse," the report states. By the time police got to the site of violence and destruction, the anarchists would flee and go elsewhere.

"These were not unruly or wayward students," the report states. "They were well organized, sophisticated and tenacious."

Tampa police are being trained to tell the difference between peaceful protesters and lawbreakers.

It'll be easy to point out someone lobbing a rock at police, Hamlin said. But from there it gets tougher.

Anarchists will likely disguise themselves as lawful demonstrators.

In St. Paul, a video showed anarchists dressed in black with bandannas over their faces disappear behind buildings and then reappear "looking like students and waving peace signs."

"It's definitely going to be tricky," Hamlin said.

Tampa police won't divulge their tactics. They figure lawbreakers read the news.

They also plan to carefully evaluate every arrest, Hamlin said.

Just because people are taken into custody doesn't mean they'll be charged, he said. Once they're with law enforcement, police supervisors and attorneys will examine the facts.

Hamlin said he couldn't say if this will happen at the jail or at temporary stations set up downtown.

"We don't want to give away secrets," he said. "But prosecutors and legal advisers will be embedded to the point where they will be weighing in on all the arrests."

Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Tampa police prepare for anarchist attacks at Republican National Convention 11/25/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 26, 2011 11:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After huge sinkhole opens, residents weigh future with unease

    Public Safety

    LAND O'LAKES — The wood floors creak each time Kendra Denzik dashes inside her darkened home to grab fresh clothes. She can't help but panic when they do.

    Eleven families along Ocean Pines Drive in Land O’Lakes homes are fenced in due to the massive sinkhole from last Friday on Thursday, July 20, 2017. The Doohen’s are among 11 families who had to evacuate from their homes.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Photo gallery: Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    News

    Taylor Payne, 24, and Tom Fornarola, 23, are two of the 23 first-year umpires scattered around the bottom rungs of minor-league baseball this summer. They never met until they were assigned together but quickly developed a strong rapport. Like the players themselves, the two umpires have dreams of reaching the major …

  5. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.