Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa residents, business owners question officials in aftermath of RNC

TAMPA — A week after a mild Republican National Convention, Hillsborough's top law enforcement officials faced pointed questions about the intense security downtown.

Many at Friday's Tiger Bay lunch were impressed that authorities only arrested two protesters. But was it necessary to have nearly 2,000 officers downtown? Did Tampa really need all those fences?

"Should it be something that turns a whole segment of the community into a police state," asked Harbour Island resident Carl Zielonka. "I couldn't even walk to Publix from my house."

These are the questions Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee and Tampa police Chief Jane Castor have heard this past week, particularly after reports on Charlotte's Democratic National Convention reflected a friendlier atmosphere and bustling downtown.

One woman asked outright: "Was it better in Charlotte?"

Castor and Gee say they do not regret having nearly 2,000 officers working downtown. Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober said he does not regret closing the courthouse.

"You can't be overprepared because if you are underprepared and something happens, there will be no forgiveness," Gee said.

Tampa's RNC law enforcement plan was based on past conventions and intelligence that about 15,000 protesters — a small segment of them violent — would be coming to Tampa. Whether it was Tropical Storm Isaac or other factors, that did not happen.

"I always said we'd have the perfect plan the Friday after the convention," Castor said.

But when asked to name one thing they would change if Tampa were to host another political convention, neither Gee nor Castor said fewer officers.

Castor said she'd like to have more officers on bicycles. "They were incredibly effective," she said.

And when it came to comparisons with Charlotte, Tampa's law enforcement passed blame.

Castor said Charlotte's security plan was similar to Tampa's. The difference, she said, was that the RNC had more catered, closed events and hotels either inside the secure zone or far away, which sent delegates straight to their buses.

In Charlotte, people walked around more and the public could attend a festival Monday.

Tampa did not have any public festivals, something Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said, in hindsight, would have been nice.

Tampa attorney and Tiger Bay member Gary Dolgin said he found the fencing and security to be a hassle. He couldn't easily get clients to his downtown building, and his normal jogging path from the Harbour Island Athletic Club down Bayshore Boulevard was blocked.

"I was so relieved when this was over," he said during the lunch. "I felt like I had my city and my life back."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Tampa residents, business owners question officials in aftermath of RNC 09/07/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 8, 2012 3:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Woman's decomposed body found near St. Petersburg railroad tracks

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — A woman's body was found near the railway tracks behind an empty building at 3100 38th Ave. N, according to St. Petersburg police.

  2. Warehouse burns on Tampa's east side

    News

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County emergency crews are at the scene of a two-alarm fire at a warehouse near 56th Street and East Hillsborough Avenue.

    Hillsborough County firefighters battle a blaze Thursday night at a warehouse on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]
  3. 'Dream big' drives Lightning's Conacher brothers

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Two words: Dream big.

    Cory Conacher includes them every time he signs an autograph for a young hockey fan.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cory Conacher (89) on the ice during Lightning training camp in Brandon Friday morning (09/15/17).
  4. Irma roughs up endangered snail kites, birds that help us gauge the Everglades' health

    Wildlife

    Hurricane Irma was as rough on some wildlife as it was on the humans. Audubon of Florida reported Thursday that the storm destroyed all 44 nests around Lake Okeechobee built by the endangered Everglades snail kite, a bird considered crucial to the River of Grass ecosystem.

    Hurricane Irma destroyed 44 snail kite nests, capping off a poor mating season for the endangered species, which is seen as an important barometer of the health of the Florida Everglades. Their off-center beaks allow them to probe inside the spiral shells of the native apple snails. But the snails' population has dropped as the Everglades has changed. [MAC STONE | Audubon of Florida]
  5. New center opens in Tampa to help those with missing, damaged limbs

    Veterans

    TAMPA — Justin Lansford, his service dog Gabe by his side, smiled broadly Thursday as he imagined the future of a sprawling, resource center for people who need artificial limbs and those interested in helping them.

    Justin Lansford, 27, lost his left leg above the knee in Afghanistan. He was one of dozens of people attending the opening of the Veterans International Institute of Orthotics & Prosthetics in Tampa on Thursday. [HOWARD ALTMAN   |   Staff]