Thousands of Republicans from around the country will descend upon Tampa, Florida next week for the Republican National Convention, and if recent history is any guide, so too will hundreds of protesters.
To prepare, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee has ordered the Orient Road Jail, a 1,700 bed prison in Tampa, emptied, relocating some inmates to another nearby prison and releasing others on bond. The entire facility has been transformed into a one-stop booking, detention, and bond-issuance center capable of handling large numbers of arrests, which begs the question: will Tampa police keep demonstrators on a short leash?
Sheriff Gee says no, but also indicated in a letter posted on a county website that his department would have very little tolerance for anything more than chanting and holding up signs:
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To the agitators and anarchists who want only to bring a dark cloud to this event, let me be clear: criminal activity and civil disturbances will not be tolerated and enforcement actions will be swift.
Four years ago, police in Minneapolis, Minnesota were criticized for their treatment of protesters and reporters covering the RNC, and were even forced to settle in an excessive force lawsuit. And in 2004, police in New York City were found to have been surveilling dozens of protest groups for months leading up to the RNC, even embedding undercover officers within several larger groups.