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Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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Redner: Occupy Tampa will be out of park by Sept. 15

TAMPA - Few people remain at the Occupy Tampa tent site on Main Street, but after weeks of controversy about the group's nearly seven-month stay at a privately owned park, there is a firm departure date. "I promise Occupy will be gone by Sept. 15 and the park will be restored to its original shape," said the site's owner, nightclub owner Joe Redner, who addressed Tampa City Council during a public period on Thursday. Redner offered his site, Voice of Freedom Park, to Occupy Tampa in December after its members and police had clashed repeatedly during protests on the sidewalk at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. The group is an off-shoot of the national Occupy Wall Street movement. "The city was arresting people, putting them in jail," Redner said. "Since I let them stay in the park, things have kind of wound down as they should. It served its purpose for a while."
Last month, some West Tampa residents collected signatures on a petition asking that the city relocate Occupy Tampa. They supported the group's right to protest but said the park, at 2101 W. Main St., had become an unsightly camp largely for homeless people. Occupy members said they had taken steps to clean up the park and voted to ban a few people identified as troublemakers from staying at the park. Some said they were being unfairly targeted for political beliefs and efforts to work with low-income, disadvantaged people in the area. Council members asked staff from several city departments, including legal, parks and recreation and code enforcement, for an Aug. 16 report on the city's options for monitoring activities at the park. A previous report showed an increase in Tampa police service calls within a one-block radius of the park in the past year but an overall decrease in West Tampa's crime rate. Code enforcement officials reported 13 complaints about odors, trash and debris since Occupy Tampa moved in but problems were corrected or were unfounded.

Reporter Kevin Wiatrowski contributed to this report. ksteele@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7652

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