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  1. Opinion

Democracy is often loud and rarely 'clean'

For some reason I cannot escape this vision of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn decked out in aviator sunglasses and bomber jacket during this summer's Republican National Convention, standing inside a bullet-proof tower, binoculars in hand and surveying the protesting rabble territory just across Tampa's DHZ — the DePurelled Hygiene Zone.

A giant corncob pipe appears, rounding out Buckhorn's transformation into the Gen. Douglas MacArthur of mayors. Tampa's gleaming new police department F-16s zoom overhead, ever-vigilant in protecting the city from the Occupy movement's barbarians at the gates of Ashley Drive.

You're thinking: Wait, there are no gates on Ashley Drive. Just wait.

The mayor, it would seem, has arrived at his moment with destiny.

It is important to remember Hizzonerness is a fastidious man. He could ride Busch Gardens' Kumba in the middle of a Category 5 hurricane with nary a hair out of place.

Ergo "The Clean Zone."

In a perfect world, the Republican National Convention would be one big, fat oozing glob of Americana — all red, white and blue bunting, funny Uncle Sam stilt walkers, and constant refrains of amber waves of grain wafting through the cool, delightful breezes of Tampa Bay in the dead of summer and hurricane season.

Alas, political conventions also attract all manner of malcontents ticked off over stuff like wars, poor people being poor, women being treated as if they were vassals, rich people paying $1.25 in taxes and if global warming isn't for real why is it 90 degrees in Fond du Lac in January?

It's understandable that Buckhorn wants Tampa to be perceived around the world as Camelot with brass poles. But if those darn protesters insist on protesting, it's altogether possible the city could come off as something out Blade Runner.

So Buckhorn devised his "Clean Zone" in governing the city during the GOP festivities, tightly regulating public viewing areas near the convention site and imposing strict 60-minute time limits on parades and protests.

This could get interesting as competing annoyed protesters line up to take numbers as if they were in the butcher counter waiting line at Fresh Market. Can you imagine that just as the Anonymous movement reaches a fever pitch crescendo in calling for the downfall of the international banking system at 59:59, the microphone is killed to make away for the prescheduled anti-breast feeding rally?

It's going to be something of a challenge to get a bunch of anarchists bent on overthrowing the capitalist status quo to punch a clock like the secretarial pool in Mad Men. It would take most of these folks at least an hour and a half just to organize a two-car funeral.

By law, the protesters must have clear sight and sound proximate access to the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Would it surprise anyone if Buckhorn argued if one stands on one's tippy toes, one can get a lovely view of the building from Lutz?

For the sake of public safety, demonstrators will be prohibited from carrying knives, axes, clubs and Mace. That probably means any effort to coordinate a Renaissance festival is out of the question.

Oddly enough, because of Florida's dippy gun culture, while protesters would be barred from bringing their personal samurai sword to Buckhorn's "Clean Zone," if they have a valid concealed weapon's permit (and who doesn't?) they could probably feel free to show up locked and loaded.

So don't even think of bringing your Super Soaker squirt gun to downtown Tampa. But your TEC-9 ought to be okay as long as you keep it in your pants.

Whew, feeling so much safer, aren't we?

It was that noted civil libertarian, the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, who once profoundly uttered during the chaos of the 1968 Democratic National Convention: "The policeman isn't there to create disorder; the policeman is there to preserve disorder."

Now while it is true English was a foreign tongue to the Boss, there is a kernel of truth to what Daley struggled to explain.

Democracy, in its purest sense, is realized in the competition for the presidential nomination. In its most awkward and vexing manifestation, democracy is also the noisy, fractious, constitutionally protected display of displeasure and discontent of what that process produces.

Buckhorn, bless his heart, thinks he can turn the aggrieved protesters in the streets into an organized Chautauqua festival. Good luck with that.