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RNC NOTEBOOK

News on the Aug. 27-30 convention

Federal courthouse in downtown Tampa to close for RNC

Before more than 50,000 guests visit for the Republican National Convention, an art exhibit debuts with a tie-in to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s Winter the dolphin and Dolphin Tale. On Monday, 50 of the 6-foot fiberglass dolphins lined the sidewalk at Pier 60 Park in Clearwater Beach. The decorated dolphins will be on display until Sept. 4.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Before more than 50,000 guests visit for the Republican National Convention, an art exhibit debuts with a tie-in to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s Winter the dolphin and Dolphin Tale. On Monday, 50 of the 6-foot fiberglass dolphins lined the sidewalk at Pier 60 Park in Clearwater Beach. The decorated dolphins will be on display until Sept. 4.

TAMPA — Court will not be in session at the Sam M. Gibbons federal courthouse in downtown Tampa during the Republican National Convention, officials said Monday.

Instead, district and magistrate judges working in the Orlando division of the U.S. District Court will be responsible for any Tampa matters requiring court proceedings, including matters resulting from the convention itself.

Cases in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, also in the Gibbons courthouse at 801 N Florida Ave., also will be halted for the week.

Starting Aug. 27, a deposit lockbox will be available on the first floor of the courthouse, beyond the metal detectors, allowing the delivery of paperwork to the court.

But the court said it encourages the public to either mail paperwork or use the court's electronic filing system.

The courthouse will resume normal operations on Sept. 4, after the Labor Day holiday.

ACLU holds 'Know Your Rights' forum

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida holds its third and final "Know Your Rights" forum tonight at the University of Tampa.

The forum is scheduled to feature Tampa City Attorney James Shimberg Jr., Tampa police Assistant Chief John Bennett, Hillsborough County Public Defender Julianne Holt and Stetson University College of Law associate professor Louis J. Virelli III.

Organizers also expect a representative of the St. Petersburg Police Department to be on hand for questions about that city's proposed "Event Zone."

"This is about protecting First Amendment rights," said Joyce Hamilton Henry, the director of the ACLU's mid-Florida office. "As it gets closer to the RNC, individuals are concerned about what kind of discretion police will use in dealing with certain kinds of circumstances."

The forum will be free and open to the public. It's scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. in the Allen N. Reeves Theater on the second floor of the Vaughn Center.

For Harbour Island, a list of restrictions

Of all of Tampa's neighborhoods, Harbour Island will feel it most when it comes to security restrictions during the RNC.

More than 3,500 residents live on Harbour Island, a 177-acre neighborhood that also includes shops and restaurants. After meeting last week with the Secret Service, Coast Guard and police, the Harbour Bay Townhome Association is telling its members:

• With the Franklin Street/Harbour Island bridge closed to all traffic from after noon Aug. 25 through the end of the RNC, all vehicles and pedestrians will have to use the Beneficial Drive bridge. But that bridge will have its two southbound lanes blocked off until the end of the RNC. Its northbound lanes will turn into a two-way road.

• Vehicle checkpoints to get on the island will be set up Aug. 25 and be removed on the morning of Aug. 31, the day after the convention ends. Checkpoints will be in operation from two hours before RNC sessions begin until they end. All vehicles will go through checkpoints and could be subject to security sweeps when leaving and entering the island. Vehicles selected for a security sweep will be directed to a tented area. Sweeps shouldn't take longer than 60 seconds unless a more thorough search is needed.

• Monday, Aug. 27, will be Harbour Island's most disruptive day, since there will be two RNC sessions occurring. Vehicle security sweeps will start two hours ahead of the first session and continue through the end of the second session. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday RNC sessions start at 4 p.m., so security checks will start at 2 p.m.

• Visitors and the general public will be allowed onto the island but will have to go through checkpoints during sessions.

• Authorities suggest that Harbour Island residents leave and return to the island early before session security sweeps start — or late after sessions and festivities have ended.

• Garbage, recycling and mail services will operate normally.

• The InTown Trolley route will not cross over the bridge onto Harbour Island. The TECO Trolley will run from Ybor City up to Beneficial Drive.

• Garrison Channel will be swept on Aug. 25. No recreational ships will be allowed to sail on the channel until the RNC is over. Commercial vessels will be allowed to come and go as scheduled. On the west side of Harbour Island, the Coast Guard will have screening stations for recreational vessels though waters will be subject to closures during RNC sessions.

• The Riverwalk will be closed from the Brorein Bridge southward.

• Parking garages on Harbour Island will have restrictions.

Times staff writers William R. Levesque and Justin George contributed to this report.

Federal courthouse in downtown Tampa to close for RNC 08/06/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 1:27am]

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