The “Occupy” movement is in full swing in Tampa, where news reports of protester-police relationships are varied, interesting, and often conflicting. Conflicting reports about Occupy movements across the country are not surprising as the mainstream media doesn’t seem to know how to handle the protests that don’t resemble any other movement of recent years.
Friday morning at least six protesters were arrested in front of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and according to 10 News, more arrests were expected before days end. Their crime is violating a city ordinance that bans people from occupying city sidewalks without a permit.
“I was mocking them left and right,” said one protester who couldn’t believe he wasn’t being arrested. Nick Windholz marched with several other Occupy Tampa protesters down to police headquarters Friday morning following the arrests of his fellow sidewalk protesters down at Curtis Hixon.
Windholz reportedly called the police “Gestapo” and repeatedly chanted “TPD is oppressing me.” He ended his protest, laying prone with his hands behind his arrest on the floor of headquarters. The police refused to arrest him, despite his encouragement.
City officials say they’ve been more than accommodating, allowing Occupy Tampa protests to go on without any permits.
Another ordinance, one that bans being in city parks after 10 p.m., has kept protesters from camping in the parks. As an alternative, “police have told protestors” to sleep on the surrounding sidewalks, asking for at least a 4 foot buffer between sleeping bags and the street. Early in the morning, the police were waking the protesters and ordering them to pack up camp and move back into the park.
If this sounds a little cozier and friendlier to you than other Occupy protests around the country, you’re not alone.
Apparently it was somewhere during this morning move from sidewalk to park that the arrests occurred. A spokesperson for TPD said officers had been trying to move the protesters from their sidewalk location since 6 a.m. before finally making arrests closer to 9.
Not all protesters were arrested, only those with excess camping materials. “The people with sleeping bags and a lot of stuff, that’s where we’re stating,” said Andrea Davis.
Protesters aren’t discouraged by these latest arrests, while reports say hundreds have been present for weekends past, they are hoping for over 1,000 to converge on the city this weekend. It isn’t clear how the city plans on dealing with the increased numbers, though more arrests are likely. Violations of city ordinances and possibly disorderly conduct charges would not be out of the question.
If you’ve been arrested at any of the Occupy protests throughout the state, contact our offices today to discuss the charges against you and how we might be able to help.
More on what to do if you are arrested in an occupy protest here.