TAMPA — With rifles in hand, more than a dozen National Guard troops stood outside City Hall and Tampa police headquarters Saturday. The unusual display of weaponry elicited mixed reactions from passersby. "It's a good thing, not a bad thing," said James Mang, who was headed to work at the University Club downtown. "We're secure here." To others, it appeared ominous. "It's definitely not the friendly Tampa we know," said Anthony Pelchat of Holiday. "It almost seems like we're being confrontational before anything even starts." Already surrounded by fences, City Hall and police headquarters are closed to outsiders. Guard troops, dressed in camouflage uniforms but with their rifles unloaded, patrolled from inside the fenced area. A heavy police presence was evident throughout downtown Saturday. Law enforcement officers, dressed in military-like, tan-colored uniforms with black belts, marched in large groups along sidewalks and through empty parking lots as helicopters buzzed overhead. On Tampa Street, Tampa police bicycle patrols practiced riding in formation. Patrol cars were visible on many streets.
Shelley Rossetter, Times Staff Writer