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Tampa City Council: RNC's ''Clean Zone'' now an ''Event Zone''

11:59 AM, May 3, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- In a 5-2 vote, the Tampa City Council decided to move discussions forward regarding the so-called "Event Zone" during the Republican National Convention and the rules that will come along with it.

They will pick up the discussion for a second reading and a vote later this month.

Council members also voted to amend the proposed ordinance as it moves forward, putting Harbor Island back in the zone and allowing people to protest in all city parks as opposed to Joe Chillura Park if they want to organize a protest within 48 hours of learning news of an event.

Several people spoke out against the zoning early on in the meeting claiming it will take away their first amendment rights.

After the vote, Occupy Tampa hosted a retirement party for the First Amendment outside of city hall.

Revisions to the ordinance include the name change from "Clean Zone" to "Event Zone," eliminating the permit fee for gatherings of 50 or more people, increasing the protest time from 60 minutes to 90 minutes and allowing protests all day in city parks.  The most notable difference is the size of the zone which was reduced.

Tampa Assistant Police Chief John Bennett also addressed the council to point out their duty as law enforcement officers is to protect the Constitution, including the First Amendment.

He says all other law enforcement agencies will be expected to abide by the same philosophies as local law enforcement. 

EARLIER REPORT:  

The boundaries encasing the Republican National Convention activity area has a new name.  It's out with "Clean Zone" and in with "Event Zone."

That may be the most noticeable change when you first glance at the revised ordinance that will be presented to the city council this morning.

The next most noticeable change comes in the form of a map, showing the downsize in boundaries.  Rather than going as far north as Columbus, the northern boundary of the 'Event Zone' is now I-275 and I-4.  The new western boundary falls along North Boulevard and eastern boundary along 22nd Avenue and the water line along the channel.

Davis Islands and Harbor Island are no longer included in the zone.

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Among the other changes includes the extension of public gathering times for groups of 50 or more people.  They will still need a public gathering permit.  They will be able to protest for 90 minutes under the proposal.  In city parks, the protests can last all day.

The previous ban on 6 inches of string and rope has been changed to 6 feet.

But, perhaps creating the most buzz in recent days is Governor Rick Scott's refusal to allow the City of Tampa to ban guns within the 'Event Zone' during the Republican National Convention.

Tampa had been the butt of jokes because water guns fall on the list of prohibited items, but hand guns will be allowed for those who have a concealed weapons permit.

Read:  Governor denies request to ban guns during RNC

The Governor says banning those who have concealed weapons permits from carrying guns would be a violation of their 2nd amendment right.

Among the items proposed to be banned on public City land during Convention week (August 27th-September 1st) include:  large poles and sticks, aerosol cans, hammer, shovel, mace, containers with fecal matter, urine, blood or other bodily fluids, BB guns, switch blades, gas masks, nunchucks, umbrellas with pointed ends.

Items proposed to be banned within 'Event Zone' during Convention week include:  all of the items banned on city owned land listed above, ropes or string longer than 6 feet or weighing more than 30 pounds, frangible containers such as light bulbs, glass containers, glass ornaments and ceramic vessels, locks, padlocks, chain locks, shields and gas masks.

Law enforcement working the event are exempt as are those that need to use the above items as part of their jobs.

The idea is to prevent people from using these items with the intent to cause injury, harm and/or damage.

Nearly 50,000 people are expected to come to Tampa during the Republican National Convention which starts the week of August 27th.

The city legal department will also be presenting an ordinance that would allow bars in the area near the Convention to stay open late from Monday, August 27th-Thursday, August 30th.

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