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Restrictions loosened for RNC event in St. Petersburg
The City Council learned that the city’s legal department removed some limitations after discussions with police and the ACLU.
Water bottles are allowed inside the zone, but many other items, including umbrellas, locks and hardware supplies, will be banned.
The ordinance was also changed to limit what you can carry from Aug. 26- 30 to only the day of the official RNC Kick-Off party at the Trop on Aug. 26.
The Council voted 5-3 to delay its official decision on the Event Zone ordinance until the Aug. 9 or Aug. 16 meeting.
Even with those concessions, some members were not happy about the restrictions placed on citizens and the added responsibilities of the police department.
Council member Karl Nurse said he doesn’t think the restrictions are necessary because if people have intent to hurt someone, that is already against the law. The example police and the Council came back to was customers shopping at the downtown Publix.
Maj. Melanie Bevan, who is helping the Secret Service with coordinating security for the RNC, said two police officers would be stationed near the Publix on Aug. 26. She said like any law, it would be up to the officer’s discretion to enforce. If people are just walking from the store to their cars, Bevan said police will more than likely not interrupt that process.
“We realize that the Publix is going to take a couple well-trained knowledgeable officers standing there,” Bevan said. “At the same time ensure that this facility is not utilized for an area to purschase those very items to cause harm to people.”
Council member Charlie Gerdes said he did not see the need to have police resources used at the Publix. “Those two officers should be on the parade route or viewing area, not at Publix.”
Chief Assistant City Attorney Mark Winn said the measures are necessary even though, “virtually 100 percent (of protesters) will be peaceful.”
However, “These (restricted items) historically have been the type of thing they used to create those problem and that’s the purpose this,” Winn said. “For that very small percentage that may want to create that problem.”
Items restricted regardless of intent of use
- Rope/chains/cable/wire/tape or material in similar nature having tensile strength greater than 30 pounds and longer than six feet
- Fragile materials such as glass bottles, glass ornaments, light bulbs and ceramics
- Material designed or intended to be used as a shield
- Gas masks
“This type of event has historically brought a small amount of people that want to commit violent acts,” Winn added.
Council members Jim Kennedy and Wengay Newton expressed continue concern that the city has not yet been guaranteed to be reimbursed for expenses related to hosting the RNC event.
Mayor Bill Foster said while there is no official agreement in place, the city expected to be fully reimbursed.
“Under the DOJ grant we have every entitlement to the reimbursement for all of our reasonable costs with an officially designated RNC event,” Foster said. “We have a security plan in place. I have every expectation that will be reimbursed (from) the city of Tampa as the receiving organization (from the DOJ).”