For RNC, Tampa plans to limit weapons in 'clean zone'
TAMPA - Mayor Bob Buckhorn spelled out the city's approach to protesters when the Republican National Convention hits town this summer. The package of temporary ordinances, which must win city council approval, lays out the boundaries of a so-called "clean zone," where weapons will be banned, park hours restricted and protests tightly limited. The clean zone extends beyond the central business district to encompass Tampa Heights, Ybor City, Hyde Park, Davis Islands and Harbour Island. The ordinance bans the possession of anything the owner intends to use as a weapon or a shield against law enforcement officers. Citywide, that means knives, axes, air pistols, brass knuckles, mace, chains, crowbars and bags of bodily fluids.The ban doesn't appear to apply to guns and rifles that fire bullets. Within the clean zone, the city will additionally ban gas masks, rope or wire longer than 6 inches, glass objects that can be shattered; locks not included as a vehicle or structure; and anything except umbrellas that can be used as a shield. The bans don't apply to people who need the materials to conduct their normal business. Buckhorn, Police Chief Jane Castor and a host of other city officials have said repeatedly they respect people's rights to express themselves during the RNC. But they also have said they plan to prefer to approach protesters with a heavy hand to avoid the scenes of crowds running riot as they did on the 2008 Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn. The specter of that kind of violence doesn't mesh with city leaders' plan to pitch the city to RNC attendees as a great place to live and invest their money. "That will be Tampa's time to tell its story," Buckhorn told the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce last week. "We have got to be ready, and we have got to talk about the assets in the Bay area." The ordinance also demands that groups of 50 or more have a city permit to gather. The permit will cost $50 and limit the gathering to one hour. The fee can be dropped if the requester is on food stamps or welfare or qualifies for Medicaid. Groups seeking a permit must file a request at least 14 days before the planned event. The city can deny a permit request for a raft of reasons, including if officials believe the gathering site is too small to accommodate the crowd. If city officials reject a permit request, they're bound to help the person requesting the permit clear up the problem. Permits don't apply if: