TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn says the city passed its first test by successfully interacting with Republican National Convention protesters Monday, but that the first big test of traffic will come today after hundreds of buses descend on downtown, bringing delegates into the first full day of the event.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday morning, Buckhorn and police Chief Jane Castor said officers showed restraint in dealing with protesters Monday, allowing them to demonstrate as they wished but monitoring to make sure no one broke any laws.
Castor said, "I'm very, very proud of all of the men and women in law enforcement" who assisted and said "they showed a great deal of patience and restraint."
Referring to the protesters, Buckhorn said that when the convention starts in earnest Tuesday, "We can assume that they will be more active and that they will be more inclined to interact with our police officers."
Buckhorn and Castor described what amounts to a balancing act — giving protesters some leeway, even to demonstrate at unplanned times and locations — but also making sure no one hurts officers or violates laws, including the city's "event zone ordinance," passed for the convention.
There was one arrest Monday of a protester accused of violating the ordinance by refusing to take off his mask.
Regarding traffic, Buckhorn said "today will be the great test for us. Just like yesterday was the first test for us on the protest scenario, today will be the first major test for our transportation and our grid pattern."
He said the morning rush hour was "as smooth as could be." He said buses full of delegates would come in around 2 p.m. and that later in the afternoon, rush hour traffic would be leaving long before conventioneers are done.
Buckhorn joked that he expected delegates were coming in to hear his welcome address to the convention. He promised his speech would be no more than three minutes and nonpartisan. "This is an economic development opportunity for this city, and we are grateful for the chance to host it."