Tampa Police say overnight they arrested 29 members of Occupy Tampa in a riverside park west of downtown. Before the arrests about 40 people attempted to camp on a hill inside the park, but many people complied with police orders to leave.
The hilltop encampment in Julian Lane Riverfront Park was in plain view for police helicopters. More than a dozen Tampa Police vehicles arrived on the scene before midnight. Tampa Police Captain Brian Dugan and at least 20 other officers threatened to arrest anyone who would not leave the park. He told protesters they had to collect their belongings and leave, but he was interrupted by the people’s mic.
Occupy Tampa’s goal was to occupy a public park for the whole month of December. More than 100 demonstrators marched from their permanent encampment outside Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to Riverfront Park.
Before the group was arrested it chanted, “We are unstoppable, another world is possible,” and also recited the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Jordan Harrah had not been protesting that night, but entered the park to see what was happening. He said he was unjustly given an official trespass warning.
About four people had set up tents, and two dozen other protesters laid out sleeping bags. But when police arrived to evict their new encampment, many of the group left. Daiquiri Jones has a pending felony charge, and wasn’t originally planning to get arrested.
Several people called the police racist for targeting Jones, who is African American. Occupy Tampa’s Chris Kuleci was one witness.
The crowd burst into chanting the word shame at officers. Lieutenant Bucher walked about 30 yards toward the sidewalk, and pushed Occupy Tampa’s journalist Mike Madison into the park, and then issued him a verbal trespass warning.
But Madison said he was more concerned that Daiquiri Jones might be locked up for a while.
Some members called it a test run for their potential month long occupation of a park, but protesters seemed content with the new location. Kade Kelly set up his camp atop the hill earlier that night, hoping that the group could also make a difference in the community.
The group also called attention to World AIDS Day, and they held a candlelight vigil before laying down their bedding. Owen Gaither called for solidarity with other political movements.
After police left, at least two members of Occupy Tampa continued to sleep on the park grass overnight, to show solidarity with those arrested. 62 protesters have been arrested since Occupy Tampa began sleeping overnight in public 55 days ago.