TAMPA — If you thought the mix of protesters converging on next week's Republican National Convention was as combustible as it could get, think again.
The Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for its venomous protests against gays at military funerals, on Thursday received a permit to speak on a city-provided stage outside the convention. The Topeka, Kan., church is scheduled for half an hour at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The city is allowing groups to sign up for 30-minute turns on the platform, which comes with a microphone, a sound system and a location at a designated city protest area just north of Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Westboro's Shirley Phelps-Roper told the city the group would be "speaking on the policies of disobedience" of convention attendees. On its website, the church says it also plans to picket the media outside the Tampa Convention Center before it takes the stage and will return Wednesday to picket the convention outside the Times Forum. Then it's off to Charlotte, N.C., for a similar appearance at the Democratic National Convention.
Out-of-town officers arrive for RNC
Hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the state convened Friday at the University of South Florida for one more meeting about First Amendment issues, training and philosophy. Sheriff David Gee spoke at the gathering, which was closed to the public for security reasons.
Authorities have not released the exact number of law enforcement working the RNC, other than to confirm it is "approximately 3,000" officers. (Previously, city officials have put the number at more than 3,500.) All of those officers have arrived in Tampa, none deterred by the prospect of Tropical Storm Isaac hitting Florida — a scenario raised earlier this week.
Jessica Vander Velde, Times staff writer
The good news about Tropical Storm Isaac
One upside to the potentially rainy forecast: heat-related illnesses could be less of a problem for convention delegates, protesters and others who must be outside. Health officials preparing for the event have been blanketing everything from Twitter to the sides of buses with warnings to stay hydrated, seek shade and use mosquito repellent.
Doctors at walk-in and urgent care clinics in the area are being asked to monitor and report increased cases of heat illness, so emergency operations managers can place resources where they are needed most. But if Isaac brings only gray skies and moderate rain, it might not be so bad.
"If it's hot and sunny, we could be facing an overwhelming task," said Dr. Catherine Carrubba, mass casualty director for Tampa and Hillsborough County. "If it's overcast and raining, it won't be so bad. Either way, we're prepared."
Twitter users can go to @CityofTampa to get their convention health and heat information.
Irene Maher, Times staff writer
City needs donations of water and ice
Tampa officials appealed on Friday for additional donations of bottled water and bags of ice to keep police cool as they work the RNC.
"They are already going through what they have very quickly and their goal is to have an overabundance," Shannon Edge, city neighborhood and community relations manager, said in an e-mail appeal.
Starting Sunday, the Salvation Army is providing multiple semi-trailer trucks loaded with water for the RNC security forces and protesters.
To donate, e-mail Edge at [email protected]
Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected], (813) 226-3403 or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.