Sunday, May 20, 2018
News Roundup

Event Zone established for St. Petersburg during RNC

ST. PETERSBURG — The city has set up rules for its Event Zone for the Republican National Convention in August, and masked protesters will not be allowed.

The city will ban many weapons in an Event Zone that encompasses Fifth Avenue N to Seventh Avenue S and 22nd Street to Tampa Bay. A parade route and public viewing area will be near Tropicana Field, the site of a massive cocktail party for 20,000 delegates, journalists and dignitaries on Aug. 26.

The temporary rules, if approved by the City Council, will be in place between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1.

The council will vote today on the Event Zone ordinance, which goes to a final vote and public hearing on Aug. 2. The ordinance mirrors legislation Tampa adopted in May.

Some items prohibited in the public viewing area and parade route include large pieces of steel or lumber, aerosol cans, coolers, camping gear, fireworks, bottles, cans and thermoses. The ban runs from 12:01 a.m. Aug. 26 to 6 a.m. Aug. 27.

Other key provisions include:

• No permits for outdoor assemblies or street closures will be issued during the convention. No park permits will be issued between Aug. 26 and Aug. 30 for activities needing police officers.

• The parade staging area will be around Mirror Lake. The route will start there and go up Second Avenue N to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. and follow south to the public viewing area, said Mark Winn, St. Petersburg's chief assistant city attorney.

The public viewing area and parade route will be open Aug. 26 between 2 p.m. and midnight. Masks are allowed in those areas.

• Businesses wanting to install fences will need to apply for a permit. The installation cannot occur before Aug. 19 and must come down by Sept. 1.

The ban on weapons doesn't include guns as state law prevents cities from regulating firearms. People with concealed weapons permits may lawfully carry concealed firearms in the parade route and public viewing area.

"We would hope that no one would bring any weapons to those areas and that all persons will peacefully and lawfully conduct their business," Winn said.

The ban on outdoor assemblies does not mean protesters can't gather.

Outdoor assembly permits, Winn said, generally require the closing of streets. The number of those that could happen at any given time would normally be limited, he said, adding: "The parade assembly area, parade route and public viewing area are all open specifically for protesters."

Tampa's event zone is 8.1 square miles; St. Petersburg's is 7.4 square miles.

At previous conventions, a big party meant closing a big highway if delegates gathered in a venue close to the road.

In Tampa's case, the highway that could face closure is the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, an elevated toll road that carries about 50,000 vehicles on a typical August weekday.

In St. Petersburg's case, it could mean closing Interstate 175 during the cocktail party. The Secret Service will release traffic plans for both Event Zones soon.

Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

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