Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Public safety

One arrested during peaceful — and wet — day of protest at Republican National Convention

TAMPA — Police arrested one protester on Monday afternoon and Tampa police Chief Jane Castor said that so far officers and protesters alike are getting along during this storm-shortened session of the Republican National Convention.

"We hope this is it," Castor said. "But I doubt that's going to be the case."

Police said protester Dominick De La Rosa, 19, was arrested on misdemeanor charges of wearing a mask — which is prohibited in the event zone — and resisting arrest without violence.

According to Castor, De La Rosa, who identified himself as a chef at the Living Room restaurant in Dunedin, was part of a group of 25 to 30 protesters running through downtown.

"Many of them put on their masks," Castor said. "They were repeatedly told by the officers that was a violation of the event ordinance. They weren't allowed to wear those masks in the event zone. Everyone took those masks off with the exception of one individual."

Castor said De La Rosa ignored repeated police commands to take off his mask, then when officers placed him under arrest he "braced and tensed" his arms when they moved to handcuff him.

Police also searched a rental car fearing there might be a pipe bomb inside, but said it turned out to just be a piece of ordinary PVC pipe.

Castor said that, so far, the police and protesters are getting along well.

"We got a lot of praise from individuals within the march," the chief said, "(for) the officers, the attitudes of the officers, the helpfulness."

When an unplanned protest march from the "Romneyville" camp took place around 3 p.m., Castor said police moved a water station to the protesters.

But while the chief spoke to the media during her 4 p.m. briefing, protesters and police started to converge in front of the Park Tower at 400 N Tampa St. A line of armored officers lined up at the intersection of Kennedy Boulevard and Tampa Street, blocking the path of the "Romneyville" protesters. Scores of media members surrounded the protesters, and the scene was broadcast live on the Internet.

Then heavy rain moved in, bringing an end to the standoff.

Castor said the weather probably thinned the ranks of protesters on Monday, but it's unknown how long that will last.

"We'll see what the next day brings," Castor said. "Our mission remains the same, and that is to work with everyone that wants to demonstrate, so they can express themselves in whatever way, shape or form they see necessary.

"As long as they don't cross the line into criminal behavior."

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