1. Florida Politics

PolitiFact's Buck-O-Meter: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn keeps promise on RNC protests

Published Sep. 13, 2012

TAMPA — As a candidate, Mayor Bob Buckhorn pledged that the city would support the First Amendment rights of protesters during the Republican National Convention.

"People who want to express themselves need to be given an opportunity," Buckhorn said during a televised debate sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9 on March 8, 2011.

The question was: Would he balance the rights of citizens to protest during the convention with his responsibilities to keep downtown Tampa functioning and safe?

He did, according to PolitiFact Florida's Buck-O-Meter, which tracks Buckhorn's performance on 34 campaign promises.

In training officers to work the convention, police and Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said they put particular emphasis on the need to protect the First Amendment rights of demonstrators and journalists.

Police originally said up to 15,000 protesters might converge on Tampa. Instead, the total was closer to 2,000.

Protests were peaceful, and police said they worked to defuse potential confrontation by finding out what protesters wanted, and, if it didn't hurt anyone, letting them do it.

At the end of the week, authorities had made just two RNC-related arrests.

Beyond some graffiti, there was no reported property damage.

Michael E. Pheneger, the president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, praised the city for having senior officials on the scene of the protests, for making decisions that avoided confrontation, for training officers to be friendly and communicative, and generally for "being flexible under the circumstances."

"I don't know that anybody can complain that they were not allowed to get their message out," Pheneger said.

We rate this as a Promise Kept.


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