Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Police arrest six Occupy Tampa protesters

TAMPA — Police arrested six Occupy Tampa protesters Friday morning who they said refused to move from a downtown sidewalk.

They were the first arrests since protesters began their demonstration at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park two weeks ago. All six were warned and told to get off the sidewalk before they were arrested, records show.

Protesters called the arrests the latest example of police harassment. But city officials said they have bent over backward to accommodate the demonstrations and the protesters brought the arrests on themselves.

"We've tried to be hospitable. We've tried to maintain a good relationship," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Police wanted to avoid the kind of confrontations that have marked similar protests around the country, most notably in New York City, where hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters have been arrested.

"But at some point you have to draw the line," Buckhorn said. "And at some point, when some people step over that line and refuse to abide by the police department's instructions, then there are consequences."

Last week, officials gave protesters a list of rules. One said protesters are allowed to sleep along the edge of sidewalks between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

When police arrived about 8 a.m. Friday, they said, several protesters were sleeping on the ground.

Arrested were Kevin Andrew Flynn, 32, of Brandon; Alicia Anne Dion, 24, of Redington Beach; Pepe "Slamdunk" Kovanis, 30, of Dunedin; Gregory Michael Priem, 29, of Clearwater; Skylar W. Sabey, 22, of Riverview; and Fitzgerald C. Scott, 40, of Tampa.

All six were accused of obstructing a city sidewalk.

The ordinance police cited typically prevents objects such as tables or chairs from blocking pedestrians' passage.

"We have to balance their First Amendment rights with the rights of everyone else, including those who live and work in this area," said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis.

Protesters said they have tried to comply. "We've been policing ourselves to make sure we have no issues," said Stephanie Cannon, 24, who slept on the sidewalk and was lying with a sign Friday morning.

"We've made sure there's no way we could be violating the law, but it doesn't matter," Cannon said. "We've been harassed and harassed and harassed."

A dozen of the remaining protesters marched a few blocks to police headquarters, clutching signs, waving American flags and chanting, "Arrest corrupt police," and, "TPD is oppressing me."

A few remained lying on the sidewalk after police left, holding up slogans in silence. One asked, "Why aren't they arresting me, too?"

Officers looked on as the impromptu march made its way into police headquarters. The protesters sat inside chanting to a drum accompaniment for five to 10 minutes. On their way out, they shouted, "police are not your friends" at a group of visiting schoolchildren.

Buckhorn and police said they will continue cooperating with protesters, including allowing them to use facilities inside police headquarters overnight, but can't allow laws to be ignored.

Police had hoped to avoid arrests, Davis said. "We want their voices to be heard," Davis said. "And they can't be heard in the back of a police car."

Hours after the arrests, several television news vans lined the sidewalk as crews interviewed protesters. The fact that no police officers told them to move upset James Cox, 43, who called it a double standard.

"We are here as human beings, expressing our right to peaceably assemble," Cox said. "But we get arrested. Meanwhile, news crews are allowed to block the sidewalk. Why? Because they have a lot of money?" Cox pledged to post the photos online and call authorities.

Police did not respond to several calls for comment about the TV trucks.

Occupy St. Pete will be assembling today in St. Petersburg between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at 2nd Ave. N and Beach Drive at South Straub Park.

Police arrest six Occupy Tampa protesters 10/21/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 22, 2011 12:15am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Who took a knee? How each NFL team responded to Donald Trump's tweets about anthem protests

    Bucs

    NFL players, coaches and owners across the league reacted in various ways on Sunday to remarks from President Donald Trump speaking about NFL players who have protested during the national anthem.

    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Florida State out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2011

    Blogs

    Florida State's first 0-2 start since 1989 has led to another low.

  3. From care center to purgatory to 'hellhole': How 11 frail elders died after Irma

    Hurricanes

    As she got ready to say goodbye to her mother at the Hollywood Hills nursing home, Rose Wyda's heart was sick. Hurricane Irma had been gone for nearly 48 hours, but the trail of shattered trees and broken, hissing power lines the storm left behind was still dangerously apparent. And the nursing home was part of the …

  4. Bucs' Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson kneel during national anthem

    Bucs

    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings, two days after President Donald Trump made critical remarks about NFL …

    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Authorities ID man killed in Clearwater Beach boating crash; Girl, 4, still in critical condition

    Briefs

    An Altamonte Springs man died and a 4-year-old girl remains in critical condition Sunday morning after their personal watercraft collided with a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway near Clearwater Beach just before 5 p.m.