tampa police chief says, unpersuasively, that chemical agents and mass arrests are unlikely at republican national convention

by Tim Phillips

Earlier this week, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said chemical agents and mass arrests are unlikely at this year’s Republican National Convention (RNC), scheduled for August 26-30. Apparently protesters won’t need gas masks in Tampa; which is good, because in the “Event Zone” – the area surrounding the RNC – no masks are allowed, except during permitted parades or in the public viewing area. Yet the police are still spending more than half a million dollars to have 1,400 gas masks at the ready.

The draconian rules don’t end there. Crowds of 50 or more people are allowed to gather all day in city parks, but only if they have a permit. Marches are only allowed on sidewalks or along the official 11-block parade route, where they are capped at 90 minutes.

There is a designated protest area, what’s been dubbed a “free speech zone” at previous conventions, where people are allowed to be all day with no permit required. Though that arguably defeats any hope of disrupting business as usual.

(Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to ban guns in the Event Zone, but Scott refused based on the Second Amendment. Apparently the Second Amendment carries more weight in Florida than the First.)

Four years ago during the RNC in the Twin Cities, law enforcement officials used chemical weapons and arrested more than 800 people. Eight years ago during the RNC in New York City, law enforcement used pepper spray and arrested more than 1,800 people. Twelve years ago during the RNC in Philadelphia, law enforcement used pepper spray and arrested more than 400 people.

We’re supposed to believe, however, that this RNC will be different.

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