October 20, 2011

Occupy Tampa Protesters and Police Chief both vent to Tampa City Council

Things are heating up for Occupy Tampa. One Tampa City Council Member had asked the Tampa Police to come give the Council an update on Occupy Tampa. This was based on complaints he had received from the Occupiers. At Curtis Hixon Park, Dania S and Keith C talk about what they consider to be police harassment of the protesters.

[above footage is from October 21]
Due to these complaints about police behavior, at today's City Council meeting, members sought clarification on Tampa ordinances and the police perspective on enforcement of those ordinances. The video record of this drawn out exchange is interesting on several counts, but I will only focus on one point: all sides agreed that it was terrific that nobody had been arrested. This would seem to imply that the police felt they had ample reason for arrests, but had resisted that urge over the last week and a half. After the planned meeting, members of Occupy Tampa took turns in front of the microphone, but this was not recorded. Various protesters told me that most folks expressed an interest in finding a central, public space for conducting their protest without harassment. Two Council members continued the discussion after the formal end of the meeting. The protesters I spoke with felt that they had won the hearts and minds of the Council, overall.

Unfortunately, all this preoccupation with the logistics of not getting arrested, of where Occupiers can sleep, when they must get up, where they can put their belongings, and when they must move their belongings has left precious little time for other subjects of discussion. The issue of getting arrested and/or avoiding arrest has taken a large chunk of the group's attention. After today's City Council meeting, it is not clear that this will change any time soon.

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