TAMPA — The protest against Immigrations and Customs Enforcement started 12 days ago with a handful of tents set up in front of Tampa’s Department of Homeland Security office.
It reached a crescendo Monday morning when six protesters bound themselves in pairs at the neck with bicycle locks and parked themselves in front of the office’s doors.
Then the anti-ICE demonstration came to a crunching end.
Authorities broke the bicycle locks and arrested the protesters. They were given 15 minutes to gather their belongings.
"This is about what I expected," said Logan Glitterbomb, one of the demonstrators, as protesters took their possessions from the tents. "I’m surprised it took all day."
The escalation began around 6 a.m. Monday when the six protesters sat in front of the federal building bound by U-shaped steel bicycle locks.
Tampa police Capt. Carlos Rodriguez said he told the protesters three times that they needed to leave because they were on private property. A private landlord owns the property 5524 W Cypress St. where the Homeland Security offices are located.
Police moved in about 1 p.m. to cut the locks and arrest the six protesters — Allen Bray, 26; Austin Willis, 21; Sydney Eastman, 28; Torrie Grogan, 23; Jen Derlis, 35; and Dezeray Lyn, 40. They face charges of trespassing after warning.
Rodriguez told other protesters they were camping in a city right of way in violation of a local ordinance.
He said it was the new action of trespassing on private property that led to the forced dispersal of the camp.
"They upped the ante," Rodriguez said.
When the camp was established, organizer Sydney Eastman said the protesters intended to stay there until they were removed or four specific demands were met. After 12 days and no progress or dialogue, they decided to take more direct action.
"This is just the next step," said Caitlin Bray, a protester with the group, about the decision to take the protest to the office’s front door.
Bray, 25, said she could not see because of a tarp raised by police to shroud the protesters but she heard the sound of cutters breaking through the locks. Police would not say exactly how they did it.
The protesters drew mixed reactions from passers-by Monday, from directions shouted from inside a white van to "let them come here legally" followed by an expletive to a $20 bill from a jogger who accepted a bottle of water and returned with the cash.
"Bail money!" one of the protesters joked.
A few nights ago, counter-protesters showed up and stood across the road. They waved a Trump and Confederate flags and had signs thanking ICE for the department’s work.
The move to abolish ICE gathered steam in April when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a zero tolerance policy for people entering the country illegally. That resulted in thousands of parents being separated from their children traveling with them.
After the six detained demonstrators were hauled off in police cars and the rest had jammed their belongings into trucks and other vehicles, the patch of grass in front of Tampa’s Homeland Security office looked surprisingly healthy.
The only signs of what had happened were some yellowed grass where the tents sat and two pieces of string abandoned near the bottom of the tree.
Bre Bradham can be reached at [email protected] and @brebradham.