On the car ride to Huffington Post's Oasis, I was listening to Tampa's Mayor Bob Buckhorn talk about the city's police presence and how he and law enforcement have handled Occupy Tampa and Romneyville.
If the RNC occurred last winter or spring, most would have expected a lot of arrests, police boots on protesters' legs, young women being pepper sprayed, detained journalists and Black Bloc riots, but this time around, it seems as though Tampa came into the RNC well-prepared.
The city of Tampa has been more willing than other cities to work with occupiers and visitors to make sure everyone's rights are protected and that everyone stays safe. The mayor said that his priority was to make sure the protesters were able to practice their First Amendment rights and to make sure the delegates and protesters stayed safe and hydrated.
So far so good.
Downtown Tampa is a liberal's heaven. As you approach downtown Tampa, a big sign reads:
"Welcome to Tampa! Where the mayor and all city council members are DEMOCRATS. Enjoy your visit," so it's no surprise to see the city officials do their best to welcome protesters, most of whom are left of center, and their right to peaceably assemble. The fact that the Republicans were convening in a liberal city probably didn't hurt the fact either...
Before the RNC began, much of the sentiment around the nation was that police were going to be in full force, which they were. Also, the perception was that the Republicans, who don't have a positive view of the Occupy movement, were going to pressure city officials to crack down on anyone who challenged the status quo and the establishment.
The city has done one hell of a job keeping things civil. They also got a lot of thanks from the protesters of Romneyville and Occupy Tampa. As the protesters in these camps started to run out of food and water (because their blue bus with a kitchen in it was on the way to New Orleans to help those affected by the flooding) the sheriff's department supplied protesters with boxed lunches and Gatorades.
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) August 30, 2012
— CarsonChambers (@CarsonChambers) August 30, 2012
But who could really blame people for thinking the protests would turn violent? After Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland and after over 800 protesters were arrested at the St. Paul RNC in 2008, people were ready to see police use military tactics to quell any potential riots. At first, protesters were saying they were expecting over 10,000 protesters to descend on the Tamp Bay Times Forum. But the protests never lived up to expectation.
Leonara LaPeter Anton of the Tampa Bay Times wrote an article on this very issue. She worded the sentiment of the protests and lack of excitement perfectly:
"But for whatever reason, as the convention approached its final day, it became clear that the hard-core angry anarchists -- the ones who chain themselves together, who smash windows and sometimes rush police lines en masse -- had failed to show up at one of the biggest political shows of the year.
No one was as surprised as the protesters themselves."
Even Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said, "I'm pretty surprised. I personally thought we would have had more than this," according to TBO.com.
I think the thought of the government spending over $50 million in security and additional law enforcement made a lot of people nervous. Also, RT.com reported that Tampa made room in Orient County Jail for mass arrests by emptying 1,700 beds. Sometimes when authorities prepare for mass arrests, they can subconsciously arrest more people than necessary in order to fulfill quotas. As of Wednesday, three people were arrested according to the Tampa Bay Times; That's about 797 less people arrested than 2008's RNC.
Hurricane Isaac dampened the fire that has sustained protesters for so any months. But I've seen protesters brave worse weather. So this brings a couple of questions to mind. For one, is the Occupy movement losing steam? If the movement is still strong, then was it Police Chief Jane Castor and Mayor Bob Buckhorn who did just what their job description reads: to protect and serve the public?
I found myself not being very excited for many of the events at the convention except for the events that weren't associated with the RNC. Even the speeches at the RNC this year lacked that certain something.
One person I am sure the Republicans missed was Sarah Palin. More than anything, they missed the enthusiasm she brought to the convention. Like President Obama, Sarah Palin had star power; She made the convention interesting. She was a controversial figure who stirred the emotions of the people from both parties.
There seems to be a positive correlation between the enthusiasm among the convention speakers and protester turnout. If the DNC draws a larger number of protesters, that theory may be supported. President Obama is a charismatic leader and great orator. Many on the left are not only disappointed with Obama's presidency (although some also had larger-than-life expectations), but they're upset with Obama's drone wars, secret kill list, how he's handled the invisible war in Afghanistan and the Libyan intervention. Protesters in Tampa can't really hold Mitt Romney accountable for major legislation and foreign policy because Romney's only been governor. Obama, as the president of the United States for the past three and a half years has a larger collection of accomplishments -- for better of for worse.
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