Monday, June 18, 2018
Public safety

Second day of RNC protests ends calmly

TAMPA — As the sun set Tuesday, Tampa police Chief Jane Castor grinned.

Another day had passed peacefully, not a single person arrested Tuesday during a protest.

Was it the low turnout? High temperatures? Despite dire predictions, the police and protesters continued an uneasy peace.

The morning started slow. Police asked about a dozen Code Pink protesters to leave the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts because they were trespassing on private property.

The pink-clad group carried signs that read "Arrest Condi" and "Condi = war criminal," because, they said, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had agreed to send troops to Iraq.

About 2 p.m., a group of about 100 turned its attention from the Republican National Convention to another group: Westboro Baptist Church.

The Topeka, Kan., church is notorious for using military funerals to protest gays. Members received a permit to stage a 30-minute protest at 4 p.m.

Counterprotesters chanted "We all live in a corporate machine" as they marched toward the small Westboro protest. Officers on bicycles and horses blocked traffic for the unplanned march. Several protesters tweeted their thanks.

But as the group approached the fewer than a dozen Westboro members, more than 50 law enforcement officers in riot gear drew close.

Two men started kissing to rile up Westboro, but the group's 30-minute time slot soon ended. Officers guided both groups in different directions.

The counterprotesters climbed on two charter buses (paid for by Occupy Wall Street, one said) and headed to Ybor City's Centennial Park to join a rally against voter suppression.

"Tell (Florida Gov.) Rick Scott and all of the Republican leaders here right now that we will not stand for this," a speaker told the crowd. "We have been denied our rights for too long."

Tampa native Vaughan Beal, 43, lingered at the edge of the protest, wishing the words of a street rebellion could travel to the convention hall.

"We're only talking to each other," he said. "We're listening to each other. You've got so much security, you can't even get close to the convention. Even if you march, you can only march so far."

At 6:30 p.m., they marched.

About 200 headed west on Seventh Avenue chanting "Smash the state!" as a giant puppet of Mitt Romney led the way. The protest was not permitted, but once again police allowed it to continue, guiding marchers west on Seventh, then east on Eighth Avenue.

Protesters didn't try to break past officers on bicycles and horses. And police didn't attempt to arrest the handful of protesters wearing bandanas.

The masked protesters were behaving, Castor later said.

"Discretion is the most often used tool for a police officer, deputy or trooper," she said.

The only arrest associated with protesters happened early Tuesday at the Romneyville camp.

Dante Sea, 24, a resident of the tent camp behind the Army Navy Surplus Market, went into a shed in the camp and took a piece of cardboard, police said.

The cardboard's owner, Eddie Thomas, 60, confronted Sea and started an argument.

Police said Sea hit Thomas and broke his jaw. Thomas went to Tampa General and Sea was taken to the Hillsborough County Jail.

Times staff writers Shelley Rossetter, Laura C. Morel, Patty Ryan, Alexandra Zayas, Drew Harwell, Jamal Thalji, Robbyn Mitchell, Curtis Krueger, Marlene Sokol and John Barry contributed to this report.

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